The Common genet is a cat-like carnivore common throughout Africa. Nocturnal, shy, and secretive, this slender small-spotted genet features black marks on the face, which makes it look as though it is wearing a mask. Spots on the genet’s back are in parallel lines, becoming elongated towards the tail, which sports distinct black rings. Like cats, Common genets have retractable claws, and thus are able to climb trees with agility. Males tend to be bigger than females.
The Common genet inhabits a wide range, including savanna parts of sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, Mediterranean Islands, Arabia, Oman and Yemen. This species is also introduced to southwestern Europe (Portugal, Spain and France). This species favors dry areas like Mediterranean woodland and rocky hills where crevices in the trees and rocks provide food, shelter and security from predators. These animals tend to live where there is a plentiful supply of its favorite prey, the wood mouse.
Common genets are solitary creatures. Males and females have small home ranges, ranging in size from under 0.4 square miles (1 km2) up to as much as 0.8 square miles (2 km2). Preferring an independent style of life, their home ranges overlap, however. Fully nocturnal, they are extremely active under total darkness but rest during the day. They are good climbers but they spend the majority of their time down on the ground, only climbing trees to search for food or escape from danger. When they walk, they hold their bodies low to the ground, their tails horizontal. When traveling long distances, they generally follow roads, dry streambeds or game tracks. This species communicates using body language and smell. Mothers and their young will call to each other, as well as communicate using olfactory and visual cues.
Little is known about the mating system of Common genets. The breeding season varies according to the region. In east, west and southern Africa, Common genets breed in the wet seasons. In Europe and North Africa, they breed in spring and autumn. Typically between one and four young are born, after a gestation period of about ten to eleven weeks. The young are blind and helpless when they are born. They start to eat meat at about seven weeks old, being fully weaned by four months old. At five months, they are skilled enough to hunt on their own. At 19 months old, the young start marking, and they are thought to be sexually mature when two years old.
The Common genet is currently not considered to be under serious threat. However, it is commonly hunted for its attractive fur in many countries, and in some areas is also hunted to be used in traditional ‘medicines’. Clearing of woodland for development may have some impact on this species, and domestic dogs kill them.
Common genet is the one of the most common and widely distributed small carnivores in its native range in Africa. In Europe, this species is moderately abundant. But no estimate of population size is available for this species. Currently the Common genet is classified by the ICUN as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers today remain stable.
Common genets help to control vermin populations, and, as they often live near a human community, this is of assistance as regards pest problems with crops.