Only a few perfume materials of animal origin are used in perfumery. Among them are musk, ambergris, civet and castoreum.
Musk and ambergris were discussed previously in this magazine. Civet is the subject of this article. The term civet (French civette, German Zibeth) is derived from the Arabic word zabad. The glandular secretion of the animal called civet cat has been used as perfume and medicine for centuries.
Civettictis civetta, a carnivorous animal of the Viverridae family, inhabits the tropical regions of Africa (particularly Ethiopia). Viverra zibetha is found in eastern and southern Asia. The animals spend most of the time burrowed beneath ground. They hunt at night. The adult civet cat is approximately two feet long, about 12 to 14 inches high, and has a long tail. Its fur is whitish gray with black spots. In eastern and southern China, the main variety of civet cat is Viverricula indica Desmarest. It has a long, thin body and a narrow forehead. In the wild, the civet cats mainly hunt rats, frogs, lizards, birds, snails and fish. Since 1962, wild civet cats have been tamed, and more than 500 of these cats are in Hangzhou Zoological Garden in China. They breed twice yearly. They are fed fish, rice, cornmeal mush or internal organs of chicken.