Genetta and Poiana are estimated to have diverged about 9.5–13.3 million years ago.Genetta species are estimated to have diverged at least 8.5 million years ago starting with G. thierryi, followed by G. victoriae 3.98–6.01 million years ago.
Skins of G. genetta and G. tigrina
Genets are slender cat-like animals with a long body, a long ringed tail, large ears, a pointed muzzle and partly retractile claws. Their fur is spotted, but melanistic genets have also been recorded. They have musk glands and anal sacs. They also have perineal glands.
All genet species have a dark stripe along the spine; they differ in fur color and spot pattern. Their size varies between species from 40.9 to 60 cm (16.1 to 23.6 in) in head-to-body length with 40 to 47 cm (16 to 19 in) long tails; their tails are almost as long as head and body. They have large eyes with elliptical pupils; the iris is about the color of the fur. They can move their eyes within their sockets to a limited extent, and move their heads to focus on moving objects. Their ear pinnae have a fine layer of hair inside and outside. They can move the pinnae by about 80° from pointing forward to the side, and also from an erect position to pointing downwards. Their wet nose is important for both sensing smell and touch.
Genets are highly agile, have quick reflexes and exceptional climbing skills. They are the only viverrids able to stand on their hind legs. They walk, trot, run, climb up and down trees, and jump. They live on the ground, but also spend much of their time in trees. They are considered solitary, except during mating and when females have offspring.
In 2014, a camera trap in the Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park captured a large spotted genet riding on the back of two different buffalo and a rhinoceros. This was the first time a genet was recorded hitch-hiking.
Females have up to five young in a litter. They rear their young alone.
Common genet females become sexually mature at the age of two years. Once copulation has occurred, the gestation period lasts for 10 to 11 weeks. They are diestrous and give birth twice a year, during spring and late summer to autumn. Common genets have been known to live 13 years in captivity. A male genet lived for 22.7 years in captivity.
Loss of habitat due to deforestation and conversion of land to agriculture is a major threat for the crested servaline genet and Johnston's genet. Both genet species are also hunted for meat and skins. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red Lists. These are also major threats for Bourlon's genet, which is classified as Near Threatened.
The aquatic genet may be affected by hunting, but major threats have not yet been identified. It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.
The king genet and the Abyssinian genet are so poorly known that threats cannot be identified. Both are listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red Lists.
The etymological origin of the word 'genet' is uncertain; it might originate from the Greek prefix gen meaning bear and the New Latin suffix etta meaning "small". Or it may be a derivation of the Arab name Djarnet, or from Old French 'genete', from Spanish 'gineta'.
Pet genets are mostly common genets, rusty-spotted genets or Cape genets.
Pet genet owners wrote:
"Genets can be socialized with cats and dogs, but they attack small animal pets. They are not cuddly pets, and don't do well in groups of genets but usually get along with dogs and cats if they have grown up with them. Smaller pets, like hamsters, quickly become food to a genet."
"Genets are a ONE family pet, there is no such thing as rehoming a pet genet. They will not remain tame with a new family and a new environment. Change in environment and caretakers is very stressful on genets and can also cause self mutilation, cage pacing and behavior changes."
"Once bonded, genets must remain with their original owner. Their attachment to their owner is very deep and they simply cannot adjust to new people. Genets that are given away frequently become neurotic or even revert to a state of complete wildness. ... Genets should not be vaccinated. Veterinarians unfamiliar with exotic pets often try to talk owners into having their genets vaccinated with a feline vaccine, but a genet is not a cat! There is no vaccine approved specifically for genets, and unsuitable vaccines can be just as dangerous as the diseases they are supposed to prevent. Far too many exotic animals have died as the result of improper vaccinations. Since your genet will be living indoors anyway, its exposure to other animals and possible viruses will be extremely limited."
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^Diaz Behrens, G. and Van Rompaey, H. (2002). The Ethiopian Genet, Genetta abyssinica (Rüppell 1836) (Carnivora, Viverridae): ecology and phenotypic aspects. Small Carnivore Conservation 27: 23–28.
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The Angolan genet or miombo genet (Genetta angolensis) is a genet species endemic to Southern Africa. It is considered common in this region and therefore listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List. Little is known about its ecology.
The Cape genet (Genetta tigrina), also known as the South African large-spotted genet, is a genet species endemic to South Africa. As it is common and not threatened, it is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Like other genets, it is nocturnal and arboreal, preferring to live in the riparian zones of forests, as long as these are not marshy areas.
The Mwea National Reserve is a nature reserve in Kenya. It is characterized by bushy vegetation and scattered large trees (Acacia species and baobab trees), typical savannah ecosystem. Open grasslands are dominant along the main rivers, with occasional thick undergrowth.
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