Common Genet Fact File

Genetta genetta








Wild Unknown

Captive 20 years



Small Animals, Fruit

Conservation Status


Least Concern

The common genet is also known as the small-spotted genet or European genet and is found across Africa and Europe. They will often live near humans.

They spend their time hunting for small animals, eggs, fruit and mushrooms. Common genets can also scavenge for garbage and food provided by humans.

Across much of their range they breed during the wet season. The female will seek out an abandoned burrow or tree hollow where they can give birth to between two and four young.

They are considered common across much of their range though some hunting for fur, food and medicine does occur.

Read on to learn more about these marvellous mammals.


Common genets are cat-like in their appearance. The coat gives them their secondary common name of small-spotted genet with rows of small black spots running along the back. A row of erectile hairs is present down the middle of the back.

Below the eyes are distinct patches of white fur.

Each toe ends with a small claw. Like a cat these can retract back in to the paw.

An average common genet will measure 42-58cm (16-23in) long with a weight of 1.5-2.5kg (3.25-5.5lbs). Males and females are similar in size.

At the end of the body is a long tail which adds 28-35cm (11-14in) to their length. This is ringed with black and white fur. Small spotted genets have a white tip to the tail which can help to tell them apart from the large spotted genet which has a black tail tip.


Common genets are omnivores though they tend to favor animal prey. Foods consumed include small mammals, birds, eggs, reptiles, amphibians and fish. This is supplemented with some fruits, insects, mushroom and garbage.

These animals are seen as a pest in parts of their range as they will take domestic poultry.

They use their sharp claws to pin down prey which is then killed by a quick bite.

Common Genet


Africa is considered the native home of the common genet. In Africa they can be found in the following countries - Algeria; Angola; Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Côte d'Ivoire; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Kenya; Lesotho; Libya; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Somalia; South Africa; Sudan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Tunisia; Uganda; Yemen; Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In Europe they are found in Andorra; France; Portugal and Spain. This population is considered to be naturally occurring but may have been introduced. A population in Italy is thought to have colonized from the main European population.

Populations occur in Belgium; Germany; the Netherlands and Switzerland but this is widely considered to be an introduced population which came from escapes or releases from captivity.


These animals are found in wooded areas, forest, savanna, shrubland and rocky areas close to rivers and streams.

Near human settlements they may enter habitats which would not have been previously suitable.

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Their breeding season is variable across the range. Through much of their range they breed in the wet season though in North Africa and Europe it occurs during spring or autumn.

Males increase scent marking at the beginning of the breeding season.

The female will give birth in a hollow tree or an abandoned burrow. Here she gives birth to between one and four young which will weigh 60-85g (2-3oz) at birth. These are born after a 70 day gestation period.

Young first eat solid food at 45 days old and are fully developed at 18 weeks old. Females continue to provide milk to their young until they are successful at hunting.

Young common genets are known as kits.

Sexual maturity is reached at 2 years old.

Most females produce only a single litter each year but some have produced two.


These animals are highly agile climbers and will take to the trees to hunt for birds.

Common genets are primarily nocturnal. During the day they will rest in a sheltered spot or an abandoned burrow. Due to their flexible nature they are able to enter small spaces.

Males and females are solitary and maintain a small home range.

These animals will communicate with one another by scent marking and by showing their teeth and hissing at aggressors. Mothers and young can produce a call to talk to one another. Their tail may also be used to signal to other individuals.

Common Genet

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the common genet include servals, caracals, leopards, ratels and birds of prey such as large owls.

These animals may be hunted for medicinal purposes, food and their skin or fur. They are also regularly the subject or vehicle strikes or hunting to remove predators due to them taking livestock.

They will come in to human settlements where they may take some food from the residents.

In Ibiza the common genet is threatened by habitat fragmentation due to development.

Common genets are offered legal protection in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Quick facts

These animals are also known as the small-spotted genet or European genet.

Common genets are the most widespread of the 14 genet species.

These animals are related to civets and mongooses.

Viverrids such as the common genet are believed to be some of the closest ancestors of the carnivores. They share a range of primitive features with these ancestors.

Common Genet

Photo Credits


Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Guérin Nicolas, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two and Bottom

Frédéric SALEIN, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2005. Animals of Africa & Europe. London: Southwater. 2021. Common Genet | MpalaLive. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 June 2021].

Banham Zoo | Animal Conservation | Zoological Society of East Anglia. 2021. Common Genet | Mammals | Animals at Banham Zoo. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 June 2021]. 2021. Small-Spotted Genet - Africa Mammal Guide. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 June 2021].

Gaubert, P., Carvalho, F., Camps, D. & Do Linh San, E. 2015. Genetta genetta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T41698A45218636. Downloaded on 27 June 2021.

African Wildlife Foundation. 2021. Genets. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 27 June 2021].

Lundrigan, B. and M. Conley 2000. "Genetta genetta" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 26, 2021 at

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