Sometimes, the locals living around us bring us small animals whose mothers have been killed for bush meat and once, one of these was the tiniest of genets.
This little genet, which we called Geoffrey, was so tiny he fitted into a hand. Not yet weaned, he was still unsteady on his feet and made high pitched little squealing noises, calling for the mother he had sadly lost. With 10 cats and a big Rhodesian Ridgeback in our house we had to keep him out of harms’ way in a cage in the little cottage next to our us. We also had to keep him for at least six months before letting him out into the forest. There are dangerous creatures out there, if you’re a little genet! Creatures like owls and pythons.
At first we filled a tiny syringe and fed Geoffrey with UHT milk from Shoprite, our local supermarket in the town of Chimoio. This, by the way, was the only milk available and he thrived on it. Soon, he had recovered his spirits and began to play, jumping all over his cage and out of it – even occasionally falling onto his head, fortunately without any bad effects!
He was a remarkably clean little animal and used to love it when I exchanged the soft cotton sheet on the bottom of his cage for a newly washed one, joyfully throwing himself all over it and rolling around on it with his legs in the air.
Geoffrey’s favourite games were hide and seek and catch me if you can. Small as he was, he was a tremendously fast runner and always outran us, whizzing around the room as fast as a little rocket. He was also a great climber, zooming straight up our legs and onto our shoulders – or in my case – onto my head, especially when I was sweeping out his cottage. Sitting on top of my head, he would peer down at the broom with great interest as I went around from room to room, sweeping the floors. I must have looked a weird sight, sweeping out a room with a genet on top of my head!
As Geoffrey was obviously a tree dweller, O’D cut down a small tree and moved it into the cottage for him and as it was positioned near a window, he could sit on it and look out into the forest which would one day become his new home.
When Geoffrey developed teeth, which were like little razors as O’D found out to his cost when he played with him, we stopped the milk and fed him on boiled fish and chicken. Then, as he grew older we gave him a more natural diet and paid the locals to bring him mice.
We set Geoffrey free when he was six months old. It was a sad day for us because he was such a delight. At first, he was a bit nervous outside in the big wide world and hopped around gingerly on the grass, finding it rather prickly to walk on. Then, he darted up into a nearby mango tree where he spent his first night. We never saw him again after that although one night, several months later, O’D did see a big genet in the trees near our house. Hopefully, that was our Geoffrey.