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Genets Civets and Linsangs: Viverridae

Common Genet (genetta Genetta): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The common genet has a slender, flexible body that enables it to go through narrow openings to pursue rodents, their main prey. A yellowish or grayish coat is covered with black or brown markings arranged in rows. When threatened or scared, the hair covering the back is erected to give the appearance of a larger size. The long tail has alternating dark and light rings. The snout is pointed, and the ears are rounded. White coloration covers the areas around the eyes and mouth. The sharp claws, used for climbing trees and catching prey, are sharpened on tree barks and kept in a protective sheath when not in use. Secretions from the perineal glands are used to mark territory and as a means of communication. The body length is 17 to 22 inches (43 to 55 centimeters). The tail measures 13 to 16 inches (33 to 51 centimeters). Weight is about 3 to 6 pounds (1.5 to 2.5 kilograms).

Common genets are active during the night and sleep during the day in a hollow tree or a burrow left by another animal. (Photograph by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: The common genet is found in France, Portugal, Spain, Arabia, northern Africa (including Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt), and all African countries south of the Sahara Desert.

Habitat: Common genets inhabit forested areas where they have trees for climbing and tree hollows for sleeping and resting. Grasslands provide cover for stalking and ambushing prey. They also live near humans, such as in barns and parks.

Diet: Common genets are omnivores, eating rodents, frogs, reptiles, insects, and fruits. They prey on nesting birds and occasionally take poultry.

Behavior and reproduction: The common genets are equally at home on the ground and in tree branches. They are active at night, sleeping during the day in a tree hollow or a burrow abandoned by another animal. They are solitary, communicating with one another using perineal secretions to mark ground surfaces and tree branches. They make catlike sounds, such as meows and purrs. They also growl and hiss. Genets pair off briefly to mate, mostly in February and March. In summer, the mother gives birth to a litter of one to four kittens, but normally two to three, nursing them for about two months.

Common genets and people: Genets are sometimes kept as pets to control rodents. They occasionally prey on poultry and game birds.

Conservation status: The common genet is not a threatened species. ∎



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Nowak, Ronald M. "Genets." Walker's Mammals of the World Online. 5.1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/carnivora/carnivora.viverridae.genetta.html (accessed on June 23, 2004).

Schreiber, Arnd, Roland Wirth, Michael Riffel, and Harry Van Rompaey. Weasels, Civets, Mongooses, and their Relatives: An Action Plan for the Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1989.


Ray, Justina C. "Civettictis civetta." Mammalian Species 488 (June 23, 1995): 1–7.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsGenets Civets and Linsangs: Viverridae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Viverrids And People, Conservation Status, African Civet (civettictis Civetta;): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET