Genet: Species Profile

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information


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Genets are growing in popularity as exotic pets due to their beautiful patterns. They look a lot like kittens with the pointy face of a ferret, the spots of a cheetah, and the tail of a lemur. They are distantly related to both cats and ferrets but are closely related to the mongoose and civet. There are 14 species of genets. The common genet is the species most commonly kept as a pet. They are quick, agile, and solitary creatures that require special care, but for the right owner, they can make fun pets.

Species Overview

Common Name: Genet

Scientific Names: Viverra genetta

Adult Size: Just about 2-feet long, weighing 4 pounds

Life Expectancy: 13 to 20 years in captivity

Genet Behavior and Temperament

Genets are not a hands-on pet. They are usually aloof and independent. You may think they look like larger ferrets which are cuddly, but they usually resist restraint and handling. If you plan to take them outside, a harness will need to be worn. Start harness training at a young age and practice with them indoors so they get used to it.

Genets have retractable claws, very long tails, and are agile, squirrel-like climbers. If it feels comfortable with you, the animal may decide to climb on you, much like a tree. However, they do not have the restraint necessary for keeping their claws from digging into you. Some genet owners consider the controversial practice of declawing, which most agree is unethical.

If not socialized from a young age or handled frequently, they may be shy, wary of people, or skittish. Some scurry and hide at the sound of loud noises. They are also nocturnal creatures.

Genets do not do well in groups but usually tolerate dogs and cats if they have grown up with them. Genets perceive smaller pets, like mice and hamsters, as prey items. Their presence in the same room with small rodents will likely stress out the smaller pets.

It is best if there are no other pets in the house. This exclusive attention increases the chance of your genet bonding with you.

Genets also tend to mark their territory. When you get your genet spayed or neutered, you can have their scent glands removed by an experienced exotics vet (similar to skunk and ferret gland removal). They will mark their cages routinely and become stressed if you try to clean all the places they marked at one time. Some owners do not experience this behavior, but it may happen as your genet gets older.

Housing the Genet

Your genet should have a huge, secure enclosure at least 4 feet by 8 feet with a height of 6 feet. A gigantic ferret cage is your best option because it already comes with levels to climb on and small bar spacing so the animals can't escape. If a genet can fit its head through something, it can get its whole body out, too.

The pet should only be caged when you are not around. Otherwise, it will need at least three hours of supervised playtime outside of the cage daily.

Being agile jumpers and climbers, they will often jump to high platforms to look around. They need space to run and jump safely.

Most genets are litter box trained. You can provide a small cat litter box with recycled newspaper litter (such as yesterday's news) in the cage. If properly trained, your genet should return to its cage to use its litter box when free in the house.

Food and Water

As an opportunistic feeder, the genet will eat anything it can get its paws on. Genets have similar dietary requirements to felines, including high amounts of taurine amino acids and lower amounts of carbohydrates.

In the wild, small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and insects are all prey to the genet. In captivity, offer a mixture of grain-free ferret food and high-quality commercial organic food cat food with human-grade ingredients. Feed amounts according to the packaging instructions and the weight of your pet. You can also give fruit, insects, and cooked chicken with the bone still in. Provide fresh water daily in a heavy cat bowl.

Genets often tend to be food aggressive. Feed your pet in its cage to avoid an accidental bite from an animal that feels threatened while eating.

Common Health Problems

Genets are so rare that it can be difficult to find exotic veterinarians with the expertise to care for them. There are no approved vaccines for genets, but exotics vets recommend annual check-ups. Some genet owners and their vets opt to vaccinate with rabies and distemper vaccines, but the efficacy and safety of this practice are still up for debate. Spaying and neutering (and de-scenting if chosen) should be done at a young age (by 6 months) or as your vet recommends.

This pet is prone to behavioral problems as a result of being rehomed. This creature usually bonds with its original owner and if abandoned or surrendered, the psychological stress from being separated from its bonded owner is likely to make it distrusting of humans for the rest of its life.

Is It Legal to Own a Pet Genet?

Many exotic pets are banned in the U.S. Most states consider genets wildlife. No matter what you learn one day, laws change all the time. Confirm with your state’s Department of Agriculture and also check with your county, neighborhood association, and any other relevant jurisdictions. As of 2019, only some states call out genets by name in terms of legality. For example, this pet is legal to own in New York and Indiana but banned in California and Kentucky.

Purchasing Your Genet

The price range for genets is $900 to $1,400, excluding shipping costs. Try to obtain your genet from a reputable breeder. Try to get a baby or young genet, older ones may be more difficult to hand tame. An exotics pet broker is another potential source for finding one. Seek a seller who proactively gives you a lot of information about the animal and asks a lot of questions about you and your suitability to care for a genet.

Similar Exotic Pets to the Genet

If you are interested in pet genets, check out:

Otherwise, check out other exotic animals that can be your new pet.