We're going to venture a guess and say the answer to that question is no. That's because most people have never even heard of a genet, and for the rest of us, sightings of these small, cat-like carnivores are usually no more than a flash of spots and fur.

And yet one lucky visitor to South Africa's Londolozi Game Reserve didn't even have to venture out beyond her safari camp to observe a genet behaviour even experienced local guides have never seen before: a mating ritual. (Video soundtrack optional!)

The Cape genet (Genetta tigrina), also known as the large-spotted genet, is a mostly nocturnal creature, so Londolozi guest Sumei Shum was surprised to see one scampering amongst the branches in the daytime. But when a second genet appeared in the tree, it quickly became clear what the animals were up to.  

"The male would approach the female, rubbing up against her and grooming her. She would flee from him, darting around the tree, and then shoot back towards him, after which they'd run around each other in circles," explains game ranger and photographer Amy Attenborough over at the Londolozi blog. "[A]fter about an hour of this, they leapt down onto [the] deck where they eventually mated."

The species might be widespread across South Africa, but there is much we don't know about the lives of genets in the wild, and their solitary, secretive natures don't make them the easiest subjects to study. That's why witnessing such courtship behaviour is so rare, even for rangers who spend their days in bush. 

"In fact, most of the resources I have looked at base their research on genet mating behaviour on captive populations. Asking the rangers, camp staff and trackers, no one that I've spoken to has seen this before," notes Attenborough.

What we do know about their mating habits suggests the animals breed in the summer months, with an average of three young per litter. "About 70 to 77 days from now, this female will give birth to her kittens in a hole or nest of leaves," explains Attenborough. 

Although they'll spend many weeks being cared for by mom, the youngsters will be ready to head out on their own by about 11 months of age.

"Hopefully this means that we will soon have a whole family of genets living [nearby] in the future," says Attenborough.


Top header image: Mario Madrona, Flickr