Genets (Large and Small-spotted Genets – Genetta tigrina and Genetta genetta)

Kruger National Park | September 2017

Genets are slender cat-like animals with a long body, large ears, a pointed muzzle and partly retractile claws. Their fur is spotted and they have dark bands around the tail. They usually have a dark line along the back. Small-spotted genets can attain a mass of up to two and a half kilograms and large-spotted genets can weigh up to three kilograms.

Genets are solitary (unless with kittens or when mating), nocturnal animals that are most active during the first few hours after sunset and before sunrise. During the day they usually rest and den in holes in trees, thick bushes and dense vegetation. They are highly agile animals and have quick reflexes and exceptional climbing skills (they are often seen climbing in trees, looking for prey such as sleeping birds). They feed on a wide range of things including birds, rodents, reptiles, insects and other invertebrates and are also known to eat fruit.

Genets are known to be able to live up to fifteen years in captivity. They have a gestation period of approximately two-and-a-half months and can give birth to up to five young. The kittens are weaned at 2 – 4 months and hunt for themselves after 5 – 7 months. Genets are thought to be territorial in nature and often mark their areas with latrine sites (middens), by spray-marking (with urine) and by anal / perineal pastings.

In the Lebombo Concession we find both the large and small-spotted genets.

The main differences between large-spotted genets and small- spotted genets are:

  • Large-spotted genets are slightly larger than small-spotted genets.
  • The spots and blotches on the large-spotted genet are larger and usually browner than those on the small-spotted genets.
  • The tail of the large-spotted genet usually ends with a black tip, whereas the tail of the small-spotted genet is usually white-tipped.
  • The small-spotted genet usually has a dark chin and dark hind feet, whereas the chin and hind feet of the large-spotted genet are usually pale in colour.
  • Small-spotted genets usually live in more open habitats (such as grasslands and scrublands), whereas large-spotted genets are usually found in areas with denser vegetation such as riparian woodlands and rocky outcrops.

Both species are seen regularly on the night-drives at Singita Kruger National Park. We usually see the large-spotted genets in the hills and near the N’wanetsi River. The small-spotted genets are usually seen in the basalt grasslands and in the knobthorn savanna areas.