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The Cape genet (Genetta tigrina), also known as the blotched genet, large-spotted genet or muskeljaatkat in Afrikaans, is a carnivore mammal, related to the African linsang and to the civets. It lives only in South Africa. Like other genets, it is nocturnal and arboreal. They prefer to live in the riparian zones of forests, as long as they are not marshy areas. The maximum life span is 8 years and its conservation status is low risk
Similar in appearance to the common genet (G. genetta), the Cape genet has yellowish-grey fur with rust-colored and black rosettes, with a black and white tail. Individuals from drier areas of South Africa tend to have lighter colors and less stark patterns, while the opposite is the case in moister areas where they are found with darker and more striking patterns. The large spotted genet can be differentiated from other genets, especially the small spotted genet, by their very distinct large spots but also by their lack of long black crested hair along the spine.Melanistic individuals are known. The Cape genet has a long thin body and tail but has short legs. There is little difference in body type between the sexes. The skull and dentition of the Cape genet are much less specialized then those of Felidae. Cape genets have a longer jaw and more morals then the norm of Felidae. The dental formula is arranged: 3/3/1/1/4/4/2//2.
Body length ranges from 49 cm to 60 cm and the tail from 42 cm to 54 cm. Average mass of an adult Cape genet: 1.82 kg. Average basal metabolic rate: 4.189W.
Its diet is varied, and scientists consider it to be an opportunistic omnivore. Their diet consists of animals such as: birds, spiders, scorpions, fish, and insects. Various Cape genet specimens have been found to have over half of the stomach filled with invertebrates, which were most commonly of the orders Coleoptera, Orthoptera, and Isoptera. They also eat grass, which can aid digestion, dislodge hair in the intestines, induce vomiting to get rid of ingested toxins, relieve throat inflammation and stomach irritation. Another study has found that most of the prey that they consume is found in low lying bushes and that it primarily eats small rodents, with the main staple food being Dendromus sp. Birds appear to not be prevalent the Cape genet diet, which seem rather underrepresented in a semi-arboreal carnivore.
Heavily adapted to arboreal living, the Cape genet often remains hidden during the day in a tree or takes strong cover on ground to avoid heat. At night the Cape genet becomes more active, using its strong eyesight and agile capabilities to be a highly effective predator. Combining speed and stealth, the Cape genet will dash in an elusive fashion, broken up by short pauses, until it reaches its prey. Being primarily nocturnal animals, they also have a heavily developed olfactory system which has been found to mark intraspecies behavioral senses allowing for more complex hunting strategies, social interactions, and mating organization.
The Cape genet primarily lives solitary but can occasionally be found in pairs. Often the Cape genet can be found hissing and yapping which is a common communication strategy utilized by the Cape genet in stressful situations. Olfactory communication is evident with the sebaceous anal glands that secrete a musky odor. Though the olfactory communication mechanism is poorly understood, it is thought to communicate territory boundaries in certain cases and physiological states in others. Being a solitary species, olfactory communication is most likely very important in the life of the Cape genet, its social environment and life cycle. When walking on branches, the Cape genet will stay low and laterally swing its legs out so that any misstep is easily correctable. The Cape genet is very agile and has even been observed swimming
The genet is known for the killing of poultry, a quality that makes farmers, in particular, very un-fond of the genet. With poultry being the primary protein source of many African villages, the genet causes problems for the locals who are most affected. On the more positive side the genet also preys on rodents, possibly offering a control mechanism for the rodent population. As small land rodents negatively influence the economy, this control serves of great importance to regulating primarily rodents from the family Muridae. In addition to rodent control, the genet serves as an insect control as well, ridding many of the harmful pests in the local area. As insects are the intermediate hosts of many diseases in south eastern Africa, the Cape genet again benefits humans with an indirect disease control
The Cape genet is one of the species of genet kept as an exotic pet, in the U.S.A. and elsewhere.