Cape genet

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Template:Taxobox name
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Viverridae
Genus: 'Genetta'
Species: ''G. tigrina''
Binomial name
Genetta tigrina
(Schreber, 1776)

The Cape genet (Genetta tigrina), also known as the blotched genet, large-spotted genet or muskeljaatkat in Afrikaans, is a carnivore mammal, related to the African linsang and to the civets. It lives only in South Africa.[1] Like other genets, it is nocturnal and arboreal. They prefer to live in the riparian zones of forests, as long as they are not marshy areas.[2] The maximum life span is 8 years and its conservation status is low risk.[1]


Living in South Africa, the Cape genet receives its common name from its primary zone of distribution. The endemic range of the Cape genet extends from the Western Cape of South Africa to KwaZulu-Natal, south of 32°S, and to the Lesotho border.[3] It is the most widely distributed and common carnivore in KwaZulu-Natal.[4]


Similar in appearance to the common genet (G. genetta), the Cape genet has yellowish-grey fur with rust-colored and black rosettes, with a black and white tail. Individuals from drier areas of South Africa tend to have lighter colors and less stark patterns, while the opposite is the case in moister areas where they are found with darker and more striking patterns. The large spotted genet can be differentiated from other genets, especially the small spotted genet, by their very distinct large spots but also by their lack of long black crested hair along the spine.Melanistic individuals are known. The Cape genet has a long thin body and tail but has short legs.[5] There is little difference in body type between the sexes. [5] The skull and dentition of the Cape genet are much less specialized then those of Felidae. Cape genets have a longer jaw and more morals then the norm of Felidae. The dental formula is arranged: 3/3/1/1/4/4/2//2. [5]

Body length ranges from 49 cm to 60 cm and the tail from 42 cm to 54 cm. Average mass of an adult Cape genet: 1.82 kg. Average basal metabolic rate: 4.189W.


Its diet is varied, and scientists consider it to be an opportunistic omnivore.[2] Their diet consists of animals such as: birds, spiders, scorpions, fish, and insects.[2] Various Cape genet specimens have been found to have over half of the stomach filled with invertebrates, which were most commonly of the orders Coleoptera, Orthoptera, and Isoptera.[6] They also eat grass, which can aid digestion, dislodge hair in the intestines, induce vomiting to get rid of ingested toxins, relieve throat inflammation and stomach irritation.[2] Another study has found that most of the prey that they consume is found in low lying bushes and that it primarily eats small rodents, with the main staple food being Dendromus sp. Birds appear to not be prevalent the Cape genet diet, which seem rather underrepresented in a semi-arboreal carnivore.[7]


Like all viverrids, it has strong musk glands which it uses to mark its territory. The Cape genet lives primarily in well watered areas rich in wooded forests and dense habitat. Examples of these habitats are the fynbos and forests on Western and Eastern Cape. A unique feature of the Cape genet is its ability to live a broader variety of habitats. Adapted to dryer regions of their distribution, they almost exclusively reside in a riverine habitat. Within all variations of habitat, the Cape genet primarily requires thick cover for protection, shelter, and other commonly desired ecological benefits. At certain times of the year, possibly when food sources may be more scarce, they may be sighted hunting in grassland. Due to unfavorable ecological conditions, the Cape genet is not found in the southwestern arid zone of Africa.[6]


Very little is known about the reproductive patterns or to when breeding occurs in Genetta tigrina. Various records of diverse breeding times hint that they most likely reproduce throughout the year. There are records from Kruger National Park showing newborns in February, gravid females in Transvaal in November, suckling females in eastern Transvaal in September, and newborn litters in northern Southwestern Africa in October.[6] Gravid and lactating females have been found anywhere between August and February. The litters remain relatively small, varying from one to five young. Prior to giving birth, a natal nest is made by the mother. After giving birth, the mother will hunt and provide food to the young that stay in the nest until more developed stages have been reached.[6] Gestation periods last approximately 70 days until the young are born.[5] Initially the young are blind at birth but after hasty growth, in a short 8 day period, they are able to see and then shortly after they may venture from the nest. Mothers may stay with the kittens for 6 to 11 weeks of age and as late as 6 months to ensure they learn proper hunting techniques until finally they can hunt on their own.[5] The Cape genet grows quickly and then takes on its solitary social organization. [5] Little is known about the average lifespan of the Cape genet in the wild. The average age in captivity is 9.5 years with the oldest reaching 34 years. [5]

Their average birth mass is 71.5 g, their average gestation period is 70 days, and their average number of offspring is 2.5.[citation needed]


Cape genet in captivity

Heavily adapted to arboreal living, the Cape genet often remains hidden during the day in a tree or takes strong cover on ground to avoid heat. At night the Cape genet becomes more active, using its strong eyesight and agile capabilities to be a highly effective predator. Combining speed and stealth, the Cape genet will dash in an elusive fashion, broken up by short pauses, until it reaches its prey.[5] Being primarily nocturnal animals, they also have a heavily developed olfactory system which has been found to mark intraspecies behavioral senses allowing for more complex hunting strategies, social interactions, and mating organization.[8] The Cape genet primarily lives solitary but can occasionally be found in pairs.[5] Often the Cape genet can be found hissing and yapping which is a common communication strategy utilized by the Cape genet in stressful situations.[5] Olfactory communication is evident with the sebaceous anal glands that secrete a musky odor. Though the olfactory communication mechanism is poorly understood, it is thought to communicate territory boundaries in certain cases and physiological states in others. Being a solitary species, olfactory communication is most likely very important in the life of the Cape genet, its social environment and life cycle. [5] When walking on branches, the Cape genet will stay low and laterally swing its legs out so that any misstep is easily correctable. The Cape genet is very agile and has even been observed swimming. [5]

Conservation Status[edit]

The Cape genet faces no endangerment or threats to extinction as it has successfully kept up population levels even with an ever growing human population. However, as human expansion continues and encroaches on the natural habitat of the Cape genet, this may be the primary threat in the future. As long as humans can down regulate this environment encroachment, no natural predators are noted as having heavy burden on the survival of the Cape genet as they maintain their nocturnally elusive behavior.[4]

Relationship with humans[edit]

The genet is known for the killing of poultry, a quality that makes farmers, in particular, very un-fond of the genet. [6] With poultry being the primary protein source of many African villages, the genet causes problems for the locals who are most affected. [6] On the more positive side the genet also preys on rodents, possibly offering a control mechanism for the rodent population. As small land rodents negatively influence the economy, this control serves of great importance to regulating primarily rodents from the family Muridae. [6] In addition to rodent control, the genet serves as an insect control as well, ridding many of the harmful pests in the local area. As insects are the intermediate hosts of many diseases in south eastern Africa, the Cape genet again benefits humans with an indirect disease control. [6]

The Cape genet is one of the species of genet kept as an exotic pet, in the U.S.A. and elsewhere. It is comparable to the ferret in not only morphology but in bringing playfulness and attachment to its owners. Some humans occasionally hunt the Cape genet for subsistence purposes but most of the hunting is due to trophy hunting. With the very low risk status that the genet maintains on population survival, appropriate amounts of conservational hunting cause no harm to the genet population. Their pelts are often used for clothing in traditional and exotic wear. Genet cats are illegal to own as pets in California. [5]


  1. ^ a b c Template:IUCN2008 Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
  2. ^ a b c d Roberts, Peter D. et al. (2007). Diet of the South African large-spotted genet Genetta tigrina (Carnivora, Viverridae) in a coastal dune forest. Acta Theriologia, 52, 45-53.
  3. ^ Gaubert, P. & Hoffmann, M. 2008. Genetta tigrina. In: IUCN 2010 . IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4 .
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Natural History Collections Department of Iziko Museums of South Africa. Biodiversity Explorer. Genetta tigrina. May 18th, 2000
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Gaubert, P. & Hoffmann, M. 2008. Genetta tigrina. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2
  7. ^ Roberts, P., M. Somers, R. White, J. Nel. 2007. Diet of the South African large-spotted genet Genetta tigrina (Carnivora, Viverridae) in a coastal dune forest. Acta Theriologica, 52(1): 45-53.
  8. ^ Roeder, J. 1980. Marking Behaviour and Olfactory Recognition in Genets (Genetta genetta L., Carnivora-Viverridae). Behaviour, 72(3/4): 200-210

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