The small-spotted genet has habits similar to the large-spotted genet: it is nocturnal, scales trees, uses tree-holes, undergrowth or disused burrows as shelter in the day, and eats insects, mice and rats, geckos, frogs, snakes and scorpions. It stalks its prey like a cat. In defence it will arch its back and the hair down the spine will bristle, while also emitting an unpleasant odour from a secretion in its anal glands. It is a short-legged animal with an elongated body and a white-ringed tail. The spots covering its body are generally slightly smaller than those of the large-spotted genet, but not always: the raising of the dorsal crest is more characteristic in terms of telling these two species apart.
The muzzle is pointed and the ears are rounded. No two animals are exactly alike. Two to four young are born during the summer months, usually in the mother's daytime shelter. Small-spotted genets were tamed by the ancient Egyptians as household pets to kill rodents.