Genettaaquatic genet(Also: genets)


Genetta refers to a grouping of 17 species of mammals known as genets within the family Viverridae, which primarily consists of genets and civets. Each species within Genetta is classified as a carnivore and almost exclusively inhabits the African continent in a variety of habitats that range from the forests to the savanna. The most widely studied genet--Genetta genetta, or "common genet",-- has been known to inhabit parts of Europe and Western Asia (Roberts et al., 2007). Genets can be identified by their spotting and stripes on their coats (Gaubert et al., 2005). (Roberts, et al., 2007)

Geographic Range

The majority of species within Genetta are found all across the African continent. Originating in Ethiopia, Genetta has since radiated throughout the Ethiopian and Palearctic regions (Galantinho and Mira, 2009). Genetta's distribution reaches all the furthest corners of the African Continent due to the species within Genetta occupying different niches and habitats. Genets are found as far south as South Africa (e.g. Genetta felina), as far North as Algeria (e.g. Genetta genetta), as far East as Somalia (e.g. Genetta abyssinica), and as far West as Guinea (e.g. Genetta bourloni) (Gaubert, Taylor, and Veron, 2005). The only exception is the common genet (Genetta genetta) who was introduced into southern Europe and the Arabian Peninsula (Roberts et al., 2007). Genetta genetta was introduced around 700 AD for reasons currently speculated as pest control or as pets (Delibes et al., 2017). (Delibes, et al., 2017; Galantinho and Mira, 2009; Gaubert, et al., 2005; Roberts, et al., 2007)


Genets are semi-arboreal, meaning they are often found in (but not limited to) trees. They are found in a wide variety of habitats across the African continent ranging from the savannah (e.g.<Genetta angolensis>) to rain forests (e.g. Genetta bourloni) to grasslands (e.g. Genetta tigrina) to deserts (e.g. Genetta felina) and even more. Most genets inhabit rainforests with 10 of the 17 species known to be found in rainforests. The "common genet" (Genetta genetta) is the most generalized species within Genetta, inhabiting all habitats except dense forests (Gaubert, Taylor, and Veron, 2005) (Gaubert, et al., 2005)

Systematic and Taxonomic History

Genetta is part of the family Viverridae (Gaubert, Taylor, and Veron, 2005). Viverridae consists of 15 carnivorous genera with 35 species between them (Wilson and Reeder, 2005). Some other genera within Viverridae include Poiana, Viverra, and Civettictis (Gaubert and Cordeiro-Estrela, 2006). The phylogeny within Genetta is contentious and has been revised repeatedly. Specifically, the relationships among the large-spotted genets are not clearly understood and are being debated (Gaubert, Taylor, and Veron, 2005). Genetta has been proposed as paraphyletic because Genetta johnstoni forms a monophyletic group with other genera within Viverridae (Gaubert, Veron, and Tranier, 2002). (Gaubert and Cordeiro-Estrela, 2006; Gaubert, et al., 2005; Gaubert, et al., 2002; Wilson and Reeder, 2005)

Physical Description

Genets are small cat-like carnivores. They typically range from 1730g to 1800g or about 4 lbs; however, males tend to be bigger than females (Carvalho et al., 2015; Rodriguez-Refojos et al., 2011). Most genet species have a coat that is typically identified by either a continuous or discontinuous mid-dorsal line that runs from the shoulders to the tail. Some genets are characterized by a dorsal crest that runs along the mid-dorsal line. The main body of the coat is often a greyish brown and is covered in dark spots. Alternating light and dark-colored rings run along the tail up until the tip. Genet's feet are either dark like the coloring of their spots and rings or lighter colored to match the ground (Gaubert, Taylor, and Veron, 2005). Genets also have retractable claws and bifocal vision to better aid in climbing trees and prey capture (Roberts et al., 2007). (Carvalho, et al., 2015; Gaubert, et al., 2005; Roberts, et al., 2007; Rodriguez-Refojos, et al., 2011)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger


Genets are solitary with males and females only interacting when breeding. There is not enough research into the exact structure of their mating systems yet (Camps et al., 2017). (Camps, et al., 2017)

Spring and autumn are the peak times in the year for genet births, with some instances of cub rearing in the winter (Zabala and Zuberogoitia, 2010). This corresponds with the rainy season, which is favorable in terms of resource availability. Genets breed cirannually with females being polyestrous meaning they are capable of having more than one litter during a breeding season. The gestation period for genets is 10-11 weeks. A typical litter consists of 1-5 cubs with a sex ratio close to 1:1. Cubs will reach sexual maturity around 2 years old (Camps et al., 2017). (Camps, et al., 2017; Zabala and Zuberogoitia, 2010)

Only female genets are involved in parental care of the cubs. Females will secure a safe place to have their young in order to protect them from predators and any harsh weather (Widdows and Downs, 2016). The roosts of genets are often found in elevated areas such as thickets and trees (Camps, 2011). After cubs are born, they will typically stay with the mother until they are about four or five months old. Once they reach this point, the mother will start to encourage them to go out on their own until she eventually leaves them completely (Camps et al., 2017) (Camps, 2011; Camps, et al., 2017; Widdows and Downs, 2016)


In the wild, genets typically live to about 8 years (Sebunya et al., 2022). Their lifespan has been known to be extended in captivity, with some gents being documented to live over 20 years of age. One genet belonging to Genetta genetta lived to be 22.7 years old in captivity (Weigl, 2005). (Sebunya, et al., 2022; Weigl, 2005)


Genets are semi-arboreal, solitary mammals who are typically nocturnal, or active at night (Roberts et al., 2007). When they are resting or sleeping, Genets prefer hollows in trees to escape harsh weather conditions, predators, and human disturbances (Carvalho et al., 2015). There is a difference in preference of resting sites for male versus female genets. Males typically choose hollows in trees while females prefer thickets (Camps, 2011). Genets typically like to avoid humans; however, there have been instances of Genetta genetta utilizing anthropogenic structures for their resting sites such as inside roofs of buildings (Widdows and Downs, 2016). (Camps, 2011; Carvalho, et al., 2015; Roberts, et al., 2007; Widdows and Downs, 2016)

Communication and Perception

Genets largely communicate via scent. The perineal glands near the anus are used for scent marking. They use their latrine sites to leave behind a scent for other genets to perceive. Because genets are often solitary, they use scent marking to indicate the territory they are defending. Physical communication is limited to mating events between male and female genets (Espirito-Santo, Rosalino, and Santos-Reis, 2007).

In order to perceive their environment better, genets have evolved bifocal vision (Roberts et al., 2007) (Espirito-Santo, et al., 2007; Roberts, et al., 2007)

Food Habits

While omnivores, Genetta are mostly carnivorous with grass only being a small part of their diet. They typically like to prey on small mammals, like rodents and insectivores, sometimes consuming birds (Ferreiro-Arias et al., 2021). Genetta also likes to eat insects. Coleoptera and orthoptera are often found in their diets. Genetta tigrina has also been found to consume arachnids, myriapods, shrews, and golden moles. Genetta are also known to prey on fish (Roberts et al., 2007). (Ferreiro-Arias, et al., 2021; Roberts, et al., 2007)


The resting sites for Genetta are key for avoiding predators. Genetta choose resting sites with dense vegetation to shelter them from predators. Typical predators that prey on Genetta are larger carnivores such as the Northern goshawk or common fox (Camps, 2011). Genetta genetta can be preyed on the Iberian lynx due to their expansion onto the Iberian peninsula (Ferreiro-Arias et al., 2021). (Camps, 2011; Ferreiro-Arias, et al., 2021)

Ecosystem Roles

Genetta plays a key role in their ecosystems because they control prey populations. As carnivores and predators, they regulate and maintain adequate population numbers for the smaller mammals and insects they prey upon (Gaubert, Veron, and Tranier, 2002). (Gaubert, et al., 2002)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Genets are useful to humans since they act as a source of pest control. In African cultures, genets help manage rodent populations and prevent them from invading human spaces (Delibes et al., 2017). (Delibes, et al., 2017)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Genets can have a negative impact on the hunting industry. They like to prey on small mammals and rodents, which can limit the small game density in hunting areas (Delibes et al., 2017). Another notable impact of Genetta is on anthropogenic structures. Genets such as Genetta genetta or Genetta tigrina have been known to utilize outbuildings and roof spaces as resting sites (Widdows and Downs, 2016). This increases probability of contact between humans and genets as well as potential damage to structures. Ironically, Genetta control pest populations while also being a pest themselves. (Delibes, et al., 2017; Widdows and Downs, 2016)

  • Negative Impacts
  • household pest

Conservation Status

Species within Genetta are not critically threatened, but their populations do still face challenges. Genets are typically vulnerable to common anthropogenic threats such as habitat destruction, poaching, hunting, domestic dogs, and road-kill. The common genet (Genetta genetta) was listed as 'least concern' by the IUCN in 2007 but actions have still been taken to counteract the threats mentioned above. For example, tighter regulations have been placed on traps to prevent inadvertently trapping genets instead of the targeted species (Galantino and Mira, 2009). (Galantinho and Mira, 2009)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated


Macie Michalec (author), Colorado State University, Audrey Bowman (editor), Colorado State University.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


an animal that mainly eats fish


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


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Camps, D., J. Ruiz-Olmo, M. Delibes, M. Aymerich, E. Camacho. 2017. Reproductive parameters of the common genet Genetta genetta (Linnaeus, 1758) in Southwest Europe. Mammal Research, 62: 259-264.

Carvalho, F., R. Carvalho, A. Galantinho, A. Mira, P. Beja. 2015. Monitoring frequency influences the analysis of resting behaviour in a forest carnivore. Ecological Research, 30: 537-546.

Delibes, M., A. Centeno-Cuadros, V. Muxart, G. Delibes, J. Ramos-Fernandez, A. Morales. 2017. New insights into the introduction of the common genet, Genetta genetta (L.) in Europe. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 11: 531-539.

Espirito-Santo, C., L. Rosalino, M. Santos-Reis. 2007. Factors Affecting the Placement of Common Genet Latrine Sites in a Mediterranean Landscape in Portugal. Journal of Mammalogy, 88 (1): 201-207.

Ferreiro-Arias, L., J. Isla, P. Jordano, A. Benitez-Lopez. 2021. Fine-scale coexistence between Mediterranean mesocarnivores is mediated by spatial, temporal, and trophic resource partitioning. Ecology and Evolution, 11(22): 15520-15533.

Galantinho, A., A. Mira. 2009. The influence of human, livestock, and ecological features on the occurrence of genet (Genetta genetta): a case study on Mediterranean farmland. Ecological Research, 24: 671-685.

Gaubert, P., P. Cordeiro-Estrela. 2006. Phylogenetic systematics and tempo of evolution of the Viverrinae (Mammalia, Carnivora, Viverridae) within feliformians: Implications for faunal exchanges between Asia and Africa. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 41(2): 266-278.

Gaubert, P., P. Taylor, C. Fernandes, M. Bruford, G. Veron. 2005. Patterns of cryptic hybridization revealed using an integrative approach: a case study on genets (Carnivora, Viverridae, Genetta spp.) from the southern African subregion. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 86(1): 11-33.

Gaubert, P., P. Taylor, G. Veron. 2005. Integrative Taxonomy and Phylogenetic Systematics of the Genets (Carnivora, Viverridae, Genetta): A New Classification of the Most Speciose Carnivoran Genus in Africa. Pp. 371-383 in B Huber, B Sinclair, K Lampe, eds. African Biodiversity: Molecules, Organisms, Ecosystems. New York, NY: Springer. Accessed February 05, 2022 at

Gaubert, P., G. Veron, M. Tranier. 2002. Genets and ‘genet-like’ taxa (Carnivora, Viverrinae): phylogenetic analysis, systematics and biogeographic implications. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 134: 317-334.

Roberts, P., M. Somers, R. White, J. Nel. 2007. Diet of the South African large-spotted genet Genetta tigrina (Carnivora, Viverridae) in a coastal dune forest. Acta Theriologica, 52(1): 45-53.

Rodriguez-Refojos, C., I. Zuberogoitia, L. Rosalino, J. Zabala, M. Santos, M. Santos-Reis, D. Camps. 2011. Geographical and Sexual Differences in Body Size of Common Genets, Genetta genetta (Viverridae, Carnivora), in South-Western Europe (Iberian Peninsula). Folia Zoologica, 60(1): 54-62.

Sebunya, K., R. Holly, C. Sholley, C. Facheux, E. Coppenger, P. Muruthi, L. Kosnik, A. Pole, J. Qiao, K. Johnson, S. Bamulesewa, A. Wilson, L. Channer, I. Anangwe. 2022. "Genet" (On-line). African Wildlife Foundation. Accessed February 21, 2022 at

Weigl, R. 2005. Longevity of Mammals in Captivity; from the Living Collections of the World. Stuttgart: Schweizerbart Science Publishers.

Widdows, C., C. Downs. 2016. Urban roost temperatures of large-spotted-genets: The effect of anthropogenic structures. Journal of Thermal Biology, 57: 66-71.

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Zabala, J., I. Zuberogoitia. 2010. Late summer–early winter reproduction in common genets, Genetta genetta. Mammalia, 74: 89-91.