There are few creatures as mysterious and lovely as the Spotted Genet.
These lithe, tawny creatures with their intense red-brown eyes, long pointed muzzles and distinctive coats, seem to combine the lean agility of the ferret with the ferocious beauty of the ocelot; but in fact the spotted genet is neither ferret nor feline.
Genetta Tigrina, aptly called the weasel-tiger, is a member of the family Viverridae, a group of primitive carnivores native to Africa, South America and the Iberian Peninsula. Weighing 2 to 8 pounds depending on the subspecies, genets are roughly the size of a small cat, and have semi-retractable claws for tree climbing and hunting. Genets are unusually long-lived in captivity, often reaching 18 or even 20 years of age.
These arboreal carnivores will never be "tame," in the manner of a dog or a house cat; but their distant and majestic manner is valued by the serious owner.
The genet kit
Any exotic pet is a significant investment, and genets are no exception.
Hand-raised genet kittens regularly cost $1000 to $1500.
This may seem like a great deal of money, but when choosing a semi-wild animal that will be your companion for the next 20 years, it's better to bite the bullet and pay extra for an already-socialized kitten.
A healthy, hand-raised genet kit is curious and playful, and will bond strongly to its owner when given adequate attention. Care should be taken to have the rest of the family gently handle the kit daily, thus insuring its acceptance of them.
As an adult, even a well-socialized genet will retain a certain degree of independence, and will probably prefer to come to you on its own terms when it wants to be petted. But it will still enjoy daily playtime, especially if it involves climbing!
Genet-proofing your house may pose a bit of a problem. Genets are slim and flexible and can squeeze through remarkably small spaces, ending up in your walls or ceiling and leaving you with the difficult task of carefully breaking them out from behind the sheet rock, so try to seal all tempting spaces before bringing your genet kitten home.
Genets and other pets
When introduced at a young age, genets will usually get along with dogs and house cats; though of course, you will have to take into consideration the individual temperaments of your pets and carefully supervise their first meetings with the genet kit.
You know your own pets better than anyone, and that makes you the best judge of "pet compatibility." Genets are excellent hunters, so obviously they will pose a risk to pet birds and rodents, but common sense and proper cages should prevent any unfortunate incidents.
Genets are intelligent and very active, and should be housed in a large multi-level cage. The different levels should be equipped with a variety of shelves, sleeping hammocks and branches to provide the genet with interesting climbing surfaces. Give your genet a few hours of exercise outside the cage each evening, as daily interaction is imperative to keeping the genet tame.
House-training is simple enough, as genets readily adapt to the use of a litter-box.
Genet diet consists of high quality cat or ferret food, preferably organic, with the addition of cooked chicken, egg, raw ground beef, live or dried insects, fresh fruits such as grapes and sliced banana, and occasionally a few live mice--the fur and bones of which serve as beneficial roughage!
The don'ts of genet care:
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.
Don't de-claw! Genets love to climb and it would be quite heartless to hamper their ability to climb and hunt. The occasional scratch is just part of living with an arboreal carnivore. Since genets often like to perch on their owner's shoulder, prudence dictates the wearing of sturdy, long-sleeved clothing when playing with your genet.
Don't force contact, particularly with visitors.
Genets are often shy around strangers and should have a quiet area to which they can retreat whenever they would prefer to be left alone.
Don't give an adult genet away! Once bonded, genets must remain with their original owner. Much like flying squirrels, 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.
Obviously, the Spotted Genet is not for everyone, but for the person unafraid of long-term commitment--and the occasional scratch--a genet makes an exquisite, active and fascinating pet!