The genet is a nocturnal hunter. Its razor-sharp, retractable claws enable it to snare its prey. It is also a good climber and often climbs trees to catch birds. The genet belongs to the same family as the mongoose but shares many characteristics with the domestic cat. Varying slightly in color, genets have spotted, blotched, or striped markings and a graceful, catlike build. The long, bushy tail accounts for nearly half the animals length.
Habitat: The genet has adapted to a variety of habitats within its range. It can live in semi desert, forest, scrubland, grassland, and savannah. During the day the genet sleeps in hollow trees or crevices. Its spotted fur provides good camouflage, so that it blends in with the surroundings. Active by night, the genet seems to return to the same lair near dawn every day.
Breeding: The male and female genet come together only to mate. Although most pairs mate when seasonal rains occur, those living in temperate ranges mate year-round. More pre is available after the rains, which means that food is plentiful for the newborn. In southern parts of the genets range, the female may bear two litters a year. The female makes a nest in a hollow tree or among rocks, and the young are born there. They are blind at birth but open their eyes after 5 to 12 days. Their mother provides solid food for them at two months of age. The female is fiercely protective of her young. At nine months the young can hunt for themselves, but they are not fully grown until they are two years old. They become sexually mature at four years of age. The blotched or rusty spotted genet (Genetta tigrina) lives south of the Sahara Desert, often in moist, marshy habitats. A genet descends from its lair at night to hunt.
Food and Hunting: The genet is primarily a carnivore (meat eater). It eats most small animals, including rodents, birds, and insects. It hunts at night, with nocturnal moths and beetles being common prey. The genet emerges from its lair at dusk to hunt. It moves stealthily, keeping low to the ground, with its tail stuck straight out behind. The genet stalks its prey in much the same way that a domestic cat does. It first crouches, with its belly flattened on the ground. As the animal pounces on its prey, the hairs on its bushy tail stand erect, and the genet begins to purr loudly. A skillful climber, the genet often scales trees to catch nesting and roosting birds. In summer, when fruit is abundant, the genet adds pears and figs to its regular diet. It returns to familiar hunting grounds at about the same time each year. The genet uses its acute hearing to locate prey. Its thick, bushy tail helps the genet keep its balance on a tree trunk.
Key Facts: Sizes, Breeding, Lifestyle and Related
Length: Head and body, 16-24 in. Tail, 15-21 in.
Weight: 2-6 lb.
Sexual maturity: 4 years
Mating season: Year-round. Sometimes 2 litters produced in a single year
Gestation: 10-11 weeks
No. of young: 1-4, usually 2-3
Habit: Generally solitary, occasionally seen in pairs
Diet: Small rodents, birds, insects, and some fruit
Lifespan: 5-15 years
Related species: There are 10 species of
genet grouped in 3 genera. Civets and mongooses belong to the same family.
The common genet is the only species found outside Africa.
Distribution: The common genet is found over a large area of Africa, as well as Spain, Portugal, southern France, and parts of the Middle East.
Conservation: It is not known how many genets live in the wild. It has been hunted by native tribes but does not appear to be in danger of extinction.
Features of the Genet:
Large ears: Aid in detecting the faintest sounds that might indicate location of prey.
Whiskers: Long and very sensitive to touch; they help to identify objects and surroundings in the dark.
White markings: on face, tail, and under parts of body. They reflect moonlight to aid recognition at night.
Coat color and markings: Pale fur has dark blotches, spots, or stripes that act as camouflage as the genet hunts. This is called cryptic coloration.
Tail: As the genet pounces on prey, its tail hairs stand erect.
Did you know: One rare breed of African
genet has rarely been seen in the wild. Almost all that is known about
it is based on examination of skins collected by pygmy hunters.
The genet, like the weasel, was once domesticated in Europe to control plagues of rodents.
The slender and loosely jointed body of a genet enables it to squeeze through any opening its head fits through.
Studies of the genet in captivity show that it uses a combination of touch, smell, hearing, and eyesight to find its way at night.
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