Genetta genetta

The genet (Genetta genetta) is a hard to see mammal in nature because its discreet behaviour, and because it lives into dense forests and forages at night. It’s the only member of family Viverridae in Europe. The family Viverridae is included in the order Carnivora and it’s found mainly in Africa and south Asia. The genet is not a cat, neither a feline, despite its popular name gat mesquer in Catalan.

The slim body of the genet wears a light fur with rows of black spots that turn to black rings in its long, thick tail. Its legs are short and the feet have 5 toes with retractile claws, the thumb smaller and biased to the inside. Its small head with lift up ears and moustache may look like a cat, but it has also conspicuous white spots below the eyes, a long snout and big fangs. The genet achieve one meter length, half of it just the tail, and 2 kg weight.

The genet is agile and quick, it often climbs on trees and lays on horizontal branches. It preys mainly on mice but also on birds, eggs, reptiles and insects.

No fossils of genet bones are found in Pleistocene, so it looks like a recent member of European fauna. Likely it was introduced with the Arab invasion to the Iberian peninsula.

The genet is well known in the green oak woods from Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac , though its distribution in the district of Bages should be wider.

All Viverridae has a glandule near the anus producing a strong odour substance that the animal leaves to display irritation or to mark one place. The musk civet, a valuable perfumery ingredient, is in fact this substance sourced from several species of Viverridae.

[photos Jordi Badia]