Genet | African Wildlife Foundation

Classified as carnivorous, the
genet is actually omnivorous

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Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • Native to more than 25 African countries
  • Eyes won’t open for 10 days after birth
  • Weigh less than 3 ounces at birth

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Large-spotted genet (Genetta tigrina)
Forest genet (Genetta servalina)
Common genet (Genetta genetta)


4.5 lb.


Approximately 20 in. long

Life span

About 8 years in the wild






About 75 days


Owls, leopards, pythons, humans


Where do genets live?

Genets are dispersed throughout Africa and are found across a variety of habitats that have dense vegetation—including woodlands, savannas, and forests. 

Tags: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Namibia, Niger, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kilimanjaro, Limpopo, Maasai Steppe, Samburu, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is the genet?

The small-spotted genet, found in more arid regions, is recognized by a prominent dorsal crest running from shoulder to tail. Its spots are round and elongated. The forest genet lacks a dorsal crest and has a coat with spaced-out, elongated spots. The large-spotted genet has a smaller dorsal crest than its small-spotted relative and is the most widely distributed of the three species. Genets also have retractable claws adapted to climbing and catching prey.

Behavior & Diet

Genets are opportunistic feeders.

Although classified as a carnivore, the genet is omnivorous and will eat what is most readily available. This can include small mammals—especially rodents, shrews, and bats—birds and their eggs, frogs, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, and various fruits. 

They are resourceful and acrobatic.

Genets are considered arboreal and climb trees to hunt birds; however, they also spend much time on the ground hunting prey and taking shelter in escarpments and rocky outcrops. They are able to squeeze their flexible bodies through any opening larger than their heads. 

The genet favors a solitary existence.

Adult genets are solitary except during periods of courtship or when young genets accompany their mothers. A female may have up to two litters a year with two to four young in each. Kittens are born in a burrow; their eyes and ears are shut at birth and open after about 10 days. They receive their first solid food at about six weeks, but they continue to nurse for a few weeks longer. 

Genets have a foul method of self-expression.

Similar to the civet, the genet produces secretions conveying messages about sexual, social, or territorial behavior. When angry, frightened, or injured, the genet can squirt a foul-smelling substance that deters enemies.

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Genets are hunted as pests.

Due to human population growth and expanding communities, some genets have adapted to cultivated areas and human settlements, where they have developed a taste for poultry, thereby causing people to kill them in retaliation.


Our solutions to protecting the genet:

  • Foster a conservation mindset.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with communities living in close proximity to wildlife to incentivize conservation. In exchange for refraining from retaliatory killing or hunting for bushmeat, communities receive training. 

  • Provide income alternatives.

    AWF has a long history of working with pastoralist communities to improve sustainable livelihoods. In Tanzania and Kenya, AWF, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), launched the Livestock for Livelihoods program. The program aims to eradicate poverty among pastoralist communities while simultaneously protecting landscapes and wildlife. The revenue reduces pressure on the landscape by reducing the need for farming and charcoal burning, thereby freeing more space for wildlife like the genet.

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