Common genet (Genetta genetta)

Also known as: Ibiza common genet, Ibiza genet
French: Genette Commune
Spanish: Gineta
GenusGenetta (1)
SizeMale length: 86 - 105 cm (2)
Female length: 84 - 102 cm (2)
Tail length: 33 - 51 cm (2)
Weight1.4 - 2.5 kg (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The common genet is a slender, cat-like carnivore, recognised by a crest of long, black hairs that runs from the shoulders, along the back to the base of the tail, which can be erected when threatened (3) (4) (5). The rest of the fur on its elongated body is pale yellowish-brown with about three to four rows of dark spots running horizontally across the body (3) (6), while the long, often white-tipped tail is patterned with between 8 and 13 black rings (2). The common genet has a rather large head, rounded ears, brown eyes, and whitish patches beneath the eyes and near the tip of the pointed muzzle (4) (5). Like a cat, the common genet has retractable claws, enabling it to climb trees with agility (6). The male common genet tends to be larger than the female (2).

The common genet occupies a wide range which includes North Africa, savannah areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Mediterranean Islands, Arabia, Yemen and Oman (1) (2). It has also been introduced to Portugal, Spain, southern France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and north-west Italy (1).

The common genet favours dry areas such as rocky hills and Mediterranean woodland where crevices in the rocks and trees provide food, shelter and protection from predators (3). It tends to live where there are high densities of its favoured prey, the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) (7).

The common genet is primarily a nocturnal animal, although young genets may be active during the day (2). Adult common genets tend to live alone, although the home ranges of a male and female often overlap (2). It prefers to remain in areas where it is protected by vegetation, especially woodland, and only ventures into open areas for hunting (1). Being carnivorous, the common genet feeds on a wide variety of small mammals and birds, but has a particular preference for wood mice (8).

Female common genets typically give birth to between one and four offspring after a gestation period of approximately ten to eleven weeks. The cubs emerge from the den at about 45 days old and start to eat meat after 7 weeks. Common genets can reproduce after reaching sexual maturity at about two years old. The lifespan of the common genet is about 13 years in captivity, but is likely to be shorter in wild populations (2).

Common genets have a number of different vocal calls, each used in certain situations. The ‘hiccup’ call is normally used by the mother and her offspring during the first five months, while the ‘purr’ call is used by offspring in their first week of life, and the ‘moan’ or ‘mew’ call is displayed by newly-dependent young genets. There are two types of aggressive calls: the ‘growl’, heard from young genets after they have developed hunting behaviour, while the ‘click’ call communicates serious threats (2).  

The common genet is not currently considered to be seriously threatened (7). However, hunting this species for its attractive fur is common in many countries (2), and it is also hunted for use in traditional ‘medicines’ in some areas (1). The removal of woodland for human development may also have some impact on the common genet, and domestic dogs are known to kill this species (2).   

Although there are no specific conservation strategies in place for the common genet, it is found in many protected areas throughout its range (1). In some countries, including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, the common genet is also protected by law (1).

To find out about the conservation of small carnivores see:

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
  2. Larivière, S. and Calzada, J. (2001) Genetta genetta. Mammalian Species, 680: 1-6.
  3. Kingdon, J. (1977) East African Mammals. An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. Volume 111, Part A (Carnivores). Academic Press, London.
  4. Hoath, R. (2009) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, Egypt.
  5. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish, New York.
  6. Mares, M.A. (1999) Encyclopedia of Deserts. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma.
  7. Sarmento, P.B., Cruz, J.P., Eira, C.I. and Fonseca, C. (2010) Habitat selection and abundance of common genets Genetta genneta using camera capture-mark-recapture data. European Journal of Wildlife Research, 56: 59-66.
  8. Virgós, E., Llorente, M. and Cortés, Y. (1999) Geographical variation in genet (Genetta genetta L.) diet: a literature review. Mammalian Review, 29: 119-128.