The 35 species of civet and genet make up the family Viverridae. They are small, lithe-bodied, mostly aboreal members of the order Carnivora. General appearance is broadly cat-like, but the muzzle is extended and often pointed, rather like an otter or a mongoose.
They are native to most of the Old World tropics, nearly all of Africa bar the area immediately south of the Mediterranean, Madagascar, and the Iberian Peninsula. Favoured habitats include woodland, savanna, mountains and, above all, tropical rainforest. In consequence, many are faced with severe loss of habitat: several species are classed as vulnerable and both the Otter Civet[?] and the Falanouc[?] are classified as endangered.
Civets are omnivorous, supplementing a meat diet (both hunted and scavenged) with fruit, eggs, fish, insects, and possibly roots.
Civets are prized for their musk and their fur. Civet is used to refer to the musk they produce, as well as the animals themselves: it is used in small quantities in some perfumes. Despite their endangered species status, civets are also prized for their meat; it has been suggested that the practice of eating them may have resulted in the SARS virus outbreak[?] of 2002.