Common Genet (Genetta genetta)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Viverridae
Size:    Length: 1.5 to 2 feet (45 to 61 cm)
Weight: Weight: 3 to 6 pounds (1.3 to 2.7 g)
Diet: Small mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, eggs and fruit
Distribution: Africa and southern Europe
Young:  1 to 4 kittens, once per year
Animal Predators:  Leopards and pythons
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Kitten
Lifespan: 8 years in the wild and up to 21 years in captivity



·       Genets were kept as pets by the ancient Egyptians, but were eventually replaced by domestic cats.

·       Genets are now sometimes kept as pets by Berbers in North Africa. 

·       The common genet is also known as the “small-spotted genet” and the “European genet.”



Common genets are small, catlike animals with spots, a dorsal stripe and a striped tail that is almost as long as the body. They have large, rounded ears that can detect the faintest of sounds. They have soft, yellowish to grey fur and white markings on the face, tail and undersides of the body. Their legs are short and their head is elongated. The body is slender and loosely jointed, enabling them to squeeze through any opening their head can fit through.



Common genets range over most of Africa and can also be found in Spain, Portugal, France and parts of the Middle East. They have adapted to a variety of habitats including semi-desert, forest, scrubland, grassland and savannah.  Male and female territories can overlap and may be 50 to 100 hectares (5,000 to 10,000 acres). Females tend to be more territorial than males—when moved from their original territory, they usually return to the same area, unlike males.


Feeding Habits

Genets start hunting at dusk and move stealthily, keeping low to the ground, with their tail stuck straight out behind.  Stalking their prey much like domestic cats, they first crouch with their belly flat on the ground, then pounce.  Genets also scale trees to catch nesting and roosting birds.



Females and males are usually only seen together during mating season, which occurs during the wet season. The female gives birth 72 to 77 days after conception, to one to four kittens (but usually two to three). Born in a burrow, the kittens are completely blind and helpless for the first 10 days. They begin to eat solid food at six weeks and are weaned at eight weeks. They are full grown by eleven months and sexually mature in two years. 



Genets spend much of their time in trees, coming down at night to hunt. Although not a member of the cat family, they have many similar qualities. They purr, hiss, spit and meow, and they groom themselves as cats do. They also have retractable claws and, like cats, they catch rodents.  When upset in any way, genets release a foul-smelling musk from their scent glands. The musk has a thick consistency, but when diluted, has a pleasant odour, and is used in this form in perfumes. Genets live either alone or in pairs.



The subspecies Ibiza Genet (Genetta genetta ssp. isabelae), a subspecies of the common genet found in Spain, is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. The Crested Genet (Genetta cristata), found in Cameroon and Nigeria, is listed as Endangered.



Genet Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US