Civet Cat. Distant relative to the Felidae family of which the common domestic cat is related, the Civet Cat is not in fact a cat. Read all about this mammal, its origins and habitat.
Civet, common name for about 30 species of somewhat catlike,
Civets are native to the warm regions of
southeast Asia, southern Europe, and Africa.
They have a long body
about the size of a domestic cat, short legs, a tapered head with
small ears, and a long, bushy tail.
Civets are a large group of mostly nocturnal mammals of the Old World
family Viverridae (civet family), which also includes the mongoose .
Civets are not true cats, but the civet family is related to the cat
Most civets have catlike bodies, long tails, and
weasellike faces. Their fur may be gray or brown, and may be marked
in various patterns.
All civets have scent-producing glands, located
in a double pouch near the genitals. The fatty yellow secretion of
these glands has a distinctive musky odor used for territorial
Commercially, this substance is known as civet and is used
as a perfume fixative. Civet can be removed from captive animals
every 14 to 20 days. Some civet species are hunted for their fur.
The ground-living, or true, civets form a distinctive group within
the family; these animals have a highly carnivorous diet. Most have
dark spots and ringed tails. They include several Asian species
(genus Viverra ) and one African species ( Civettictis civetta ).
Best known is the Indian civet, V. zibetha, of S Asia, from which
most of the civet for perfume is derived.
It has tawny fur with
black spots and black bands on the tail. It is about 30 in. (76 cm)
long, excluding the 20-in. (42-cm) tail, and about 15 in. (38 cm)
high at the shoulder; it weighs up to 25 lb (11 kg).
Some of the ground-living civets are called
linsangs and genets.
The palm civets form another distinct group
within the civet family. These are arboreal, largely fruit-eating
animals of Africa and Asia; they are classified in several genera.
The North American spotted skunk is sometimes popularly called civet
but is not closely related to civets. Civets are classified in the
phylum Chordata , subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order
Carnivora, family Viverridae.
Although the Viverridae family is distantly
related to the Felidae family of which the common domestic cat is a
member, the civet "cat" is not a cat. Indeed, it is more related to
the mongoose than to any cat.