Can my cat catch leprosy from an armadillo?

You may well be aware that doctors in Florida have warned the public to steer clear of armadillos to avoid the possibility of being infected with leprosy. There has been a rise in human cases of Hansen’s disease (the alternative name for leprosy). It has struck nine people in Florida in the first seven months of 2015. The people were in direct contact with armadillos. The animals carry leprosy in their saliva and are sometimes hunted for their meat. They have a tendency to spit when cornered.

Armadillo control services!
Armadillo control services!
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

However, armadillos are the only animals other than humans that are known to carry leprosy which is a chronic bacterial infection affecting the skin and nervous system but which can be cured with antibiotics.

I’ve not found a definitive statement that cats cannot catch leprosy from armadillos but it would seem that they can’t because, as the above paragraph states, armadillos are the only animals that carry leprosy.

Dr. Bill Klemm, answering a question on Yahoo Answers about whether a dog can catch leprosy from an armadillo says that theoretically they can but it is highly unlikely. That would appear to leave the door open to cats also being able to get the disease. But I don’t know how authoritative he is. I have never heard of a case of feline leprosy!

Diseases which are associated with a specific species of animal do not normally cross the species barrier and infect another animal. This is the case, for example, with cat and human colds. However, some diseases are zoonotic. If you know of a definitive answer to the question in the title to this post then please leave a comment.

The armadillos in Florida are Nine Banded Armadillos. They are a non-native species but thrive in Florida. There are professional armadillo removal services.

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5 thoughts on “Can my cat catch leprosy from an armadillo?”

  1. I heard an awful screeching sound in our back yard tonight and we have seen armadillo activity on our property and my husband chased one with a shovel a couple weeks ago so…. I went to investigate and two of my adult cats were in the vicinity of where the noise was coming from so I think they may have had one cornered but wasn’t sure that’s what it was so, I searched sounds that Armadillos make and sure enough that’s what I heard. lol We are in Kansas not sure why they are migrating so far into this area because they can’t survive the cold climates because they have a very low body temperature and they don’t store fat. They say one cold spell can wipe out the whole colony. Our winter is just getting under way and last year we had some serious Arctic cold that lasted so long. So now I feel kind of sorry for them except for the fact between him and the opossum they are doing some serious damage to my yard.

    • Hi Chris. Thanks for sharing that info. I don’t know the answer. But your question might lead me to write an article on this.


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