Genet or Civet?
This time of year, with the dry climate and scarcity of water, we've watched an many animals have visited the waterholes. And every year it seems there is confusion when we see a couple of critters run across the cam view. At first glance we think its a cat, but then once realizing its not, we struggle with whether its a Civet or a Genet. First lets dispel the myth that they are in anyway related to the cat family. They are not cats but are in fact members of the largest group of carnivores – the viverriads. Their relatives include all members of the mongoose family as well as the meerkats.
Getting them mixed up when you only see them for a few seconds is very easy to do. After all, they both have striped and spotted fur, fairly long tails, and rounded ears. If you had the privilege of getting close enough you would see they both have vertically slit eyes resembling those of a cat. And both of them purr! Well that sure sounds like a cat to me, no wonder we get them confused.
So how do we tell them apart? The African Civet has short but very dense fur, gray in color with black spots in rows along the body. Their legs are black, along with two thirds of its tail. The base of the tail has striped markings and the face is solid grey except for a white muzzle and black markings around the eyes resembling that of the raccoon. The civet is the largest among the viverriads, and dines on an omnivorous diet that includes carrion, rodents, frogs, insects, birds, eggs and other small prey.
The Large Spotted Genet is merely one tenth the size of the civet, with short legs, a long body and a long tail relative to the body length. Like the civet, he has rows of spots, but his are rust colored and enclosed in black rings. The black rings merge at the neck into lines. The belly is light in color, with white patches around the mouth, nose and below the eyes.
The Genet has retractile claws which aid him when climbing trees where he likes to spend a great deal of time. Unlike the foraging Civet, the Genet is a skilled and efficient hunter, with the bulk of his meals consisting of rodents and small mammals, while birds, snakes and amphibians are secondary prey. To add to the confusion,The Large-Spotted Genet can be confused with the Small-Spotted Genet, the main difference being the white tipped tail of the latter compared to the black tipped tail of the large spotted species. Another difference is the entirely black spots of the small spotted Genet are without a rusty center.
Now that we've learned a bit about these two fascinating critters, will we be able to identify a quick run by the waterholes? Maybe not, but if he stands still long enough we just might be able to figure it out.