Should You Keep a Genet as a Pet?

Characteristics, Housing, Diet, and Other Information

Genet

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Genets catch people's eyes as exotic pets because of their beautiful patterns, but they are not legal in many states and are not affectionate pets. These quick, agile creatures are solitary by nature, so they neither need nor want human companionship. A genet requires a large, secure enclosure that contains trees or other climbing structures. Because they are nocturnal in the wild, captive genets tend to be active at night and sleep during the day, making them less entertaining than a diurnal pet. In addition, finding a veterinarian who can care for a genet can be difficult since these animals are so rarely kept as pets.

Species Overview

Common Name: Genet

Scientific Name: Viverra genetta

Adult Size: 32 to 43 inches from head to tail, and about 4 pounds

Lifespan: 13 to 20 years in captivity

Can You Own a Pet Genet?

Legality

Many exotic pets are banned in the U.S. Most states consider genets wildlife, which means that owning them is either illegal or requires a special permit. 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 a few states identify genets by name in terms of legality. If not specified, genets fall under the generic label of "wildlife" and are regulated as such.

Ethics

Because genets are wild animals that are not well suited to life in captivity, keeping one locked in an enclosure is not considered ethical. Genets do not bond well with humans and are not friendly or cuddly, so they do not offer those benefits that domesticated pets do. Keeping a genet for entertainment or to impress others is simply unkind to the animal. Many people who seek exotic pets for the wrong reasons are also not able or willing to invest the time and money it takes to create a suitable habitat for wild animals.

Things to Consider

If you are looking for a soft, cuddly pet that will be your companion, a genet is not the right animal for you. Often shy and aloof, they are solitary creatures in the wild and have little interest in interacting with humans, much less snuggling or going for walks.

Genet Behavior and Temperament

Genets are not hands-on pets. They are usually aloof and independent. You may think they look like larger ferrets which are cuddly and fun, but genets usually resist restraint and handling.

Genets have retractable claws, very long tails, and are agile, squirrel-like climbers. If it feels comfortable with you, your genet 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 because it renders the animal unable to engage in its natural climbing behavior.

If not socialized from a young age and handled frequently, they may be extremely skittish and wary of people-even their owners. Some scurry and hide at the sound of loud noises. They are also nocturnal creatures, meaning they don't like to be awake during the day.

Genets do not do well in groups of any kind 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 at all. 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.

Housing

Your genet should have a large, secure enclosure at least 4 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.

Specific Substrate

Most genets are litter box trained. You can provide a small cat litter box with recycled newspaper litter or unscented cat litter in the cage. If properly trained, your genet should return to its cage to use its litter box when free in the house.

What Do Genets Eat and Drink?

As an opportunistic feeder, the genet will eat anything it can get its paws on. Genets have similar dietary requirements to felines, including protein with high amounts of the amino acid taurine 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 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. A genet may enjoy chicken bones to crunch on, but bones should not be cooked to avoid splintering. 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 as pets that it can be difficult to find exotic pet 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 if it is re-homed. This creature usually bonds with its original owner from a young age; 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.

Size Information

Genets are longer than house cats, mostly due to their long tails. They measure from 32 to 43 inches from their noses to the tips of their tails as adults. They weigh up to about 4 pounds (males are generally a bit larger than females), which is about half as much as the average-sized cat.

Pros and Cons of Keeping a Genet as a Pet

While genets can be interesting and beautiful pets, they are not for the average pet enthusiast. A genet must be acquired and regularly socialized as a baby to create a pet-owner bond that will yield a rewarding relationship. Genets are intelligent and active (mostly at night) and need sufficient room to explore, move, and climb. Not everyone can offer the habitat and attention required to keep a genet humanely, but some owners do manage to establish a happy home for their wild pets.

Purchasing Your Genet

The price for genets can exceed $1,500 for both the purchase and shipment of the animal. Try to obtain your genet from a reputable breeder (a challenge because they are so rare). Try to get a baby or young genet; older ones will be more difficult to handle and bond with. An exotic 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:

FAQ
  • Can genets be kept in your house?

    Genets can be kept inside as long as they have a large cage in which they can be kept at night. They will also climb all over your house, trying to get up as high as possible, so make sure your house and furniture are up to the challenge-and the claws.

  • Do genets get along with other pets?

    In the wild, genets are solitary creatures, so they do not enjoy company much. A persistently curious or aggressive dog or cat may make a genet feel frightened and stressed.

  • Where do genets live in the wild?

    Genets are native to northern regions of Africa, the Mediterranean islands, and the Middle East.