home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Genetta genetta (Small-spotted genet, Common genet)

kleinkolmuskejaatkat [Afrikaans]; Gemeine Ginsterkatze, Kleinfleck Ginsterkatze [German]; genette vulgaire, genette commune [French]; kanu [Swahili]; insimba [isiNdebele] [siSwati]; inyhwagi [isiXhosa]; insimba enamabala [isiZulu]; tshipa ya dithokolo tse nyenyane [Sepedi]; tshipa, tshipo e matheba a masesane [Sesotho]; tshipa [Setswana]; tsimba [Shona, Tshivenda]; nsimba-maxanatsi [Xitsonga]; sipa [Lozi]; unsiimba [Yei]; !Noreb [Nama, Damara]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Synapsida (mammal-like reptiles) > Therapsida > Theriodontia >  Cynodontia > Mammalia (mammals) > Placentalia (placental mammals) > Laurasiatheria > Ferungulata > Ferae > Carnivora > Family: Viverridae (civets and genets) > Subfamily: Viverrinae

Genetta genetta (Small-spotted genet, Common genet)

Small-spotted genet, Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda. [photo Bernard Dupont  ]

Genetta genetta (Small-spotted genet, Common genet)

Small-spotted genet, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

A nocturnal carnivore with a varied diet that includes mainly invertebrates and small rodents but also reptiles, frogs, birds and wild fruits. Similar in appearance to the Large-spotted genet but spots are smaller and darker, the tail tip is usually white, the black-and-white facial markings are more prominent, the chin is dark and it has a crest of longer black-tipped along the spine that is raised when the animal is threatened.


Small-spotted genet has a long slender body and tail and short legs. The body is off-white to grayish white and spotted with dark-brown to almost black spots and bars. The long tail is ringed in black with a white tip. A crest of longer black–tipped hairs runs along the spine and can be raised when the animal is threatened. The ears are fairly elongated, rounded and thin, they appear almost transparent. The eyes are large, characteristic of its nocturnal lifestyle with distinct white patches underneath. They have excellent binocular vision this allows them to judge distances very accurately and jump from branch to branch or on its prey. There are sharp, curved protractile claws on both the front and back feet.


Total Body Length: 86 – 100 cm; weight range 1.5 – 3.2 kg.

Dental Formula

I C P M = 40

Distribution and habitat

Widespread in most of southern Africa, but is found marginally in KwazuluNatal, does not occur in northern and eastern Zimbabwe, and is not found in most of Mozambique. Occurs in a wide variety of habitats from desert margins to high rainfall areas.

General behaviour

Small-spotted genets are nocturnal and lie up and remain hidden during the day. They are good climbers and well adapted to an arboreal way of life but also spend time foraging on the ground. Normally solitary they are occasionally seen in pairs. 


Genets are carnivores. Invertebrates and small rodents are their primary food, but they also eat reptiles, amphibians, birds and wild fruits. Excellent eyesight and their lithe build make them highly effective predators. They combine speed and stealth, stalking their prey in a series pf dashes broken by short pauses.


After a gestation period of about 70 days, a litter of 2 – 4 young are born in summer in a nest hidden in holes, rock crevices or amongst dense vegetation. They are blind at birth. The eyes open after about 8 days and they venture from the nest soon afterwards. They are weaned at 9 weeks although they eat solid food before this. After a year the young are thought to be independent. Life span: 8 years maximum age


Small-spotted genets can come into conflict with poultry farmers as they will kill for more birds than they require if they get into a hen house. Unfortunately they are common roadkills by becoming disorientated and trapped by car headlights at night. The small-spotted genet is not regarded as threatened and its conservation status is low risk.

Text by Denise Hamerton