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The Civet Cat

A civet cat is a small, Lean, mostly nocturnal mammal and is found in tropical Asia and Africa. The civet cat belongs to more than 12 species. The African civet is the main species from which a musky scent comes used in perfumes. The name of this perfume is civet. Hence the name of the cat is civet. Civets are also called Toddy cats in English, mara patti in Malayalam, musang in malay.

Civets have a broadly catlike general appearance. The muzzle is extended and often pointed like that of an otter, mongoose. Their length is from 43 to 71 cm. (excluding tale). Weight is about 1.4 to 4. 5 kg. Both male and female civets produce the strong smelling secretion. It is produced by civet’s perineal glands. Animals right group like world Animal protection, express concern that harvesting musk is cruel to animals. Civets are found in sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, the Iberian peninsula, southern china and south-east Asia. Their habitats are woodland, savana and mountain Biome. Civets are carnivores in general. Many species eat fruits, and flower nectar. Due to loss of their natural habitats civets have changed their food habits. Civets are also kept in captivity for processing coffee beans and for collecting their perineal secretions to be used in making perfumes. In Shakespeare’s play As you like it (1599) civet cat is mentioned as the uncleanly source of courtiers’ perfumes

Civet is a soft, almost liquid material. It is pale yellow when fresh, darkening in the light and becoming salve like in consistency. Its odor even putrid as a pure substance. But when diluted it is pleasant, Sweet and aromatic. It is prepared by solvent extraction to yield either a tincture or a retinoid.

The chemical in civet oil gives it most of its distinctive odor is civet one at a concentration from 2.5 to 3.4%. This oil also includes various other keytones such as cyclo-penta-decanone, cyclo-hexa decanone etc. The animal scent is increased by the smaller amounts of indole and skatole and these are present in African civet at a concentration of about 1%. Civet has a different oder from musk. Civet absolute is used as a flavour and in perfumery.

The united states does not allow civets to be imported as the species transmit SARS virus. But the US imports civet oil. The 10th Century Arab Historian Al-Masudi, Mentioned civet (Zabada) as a species in his book Murudj al-dhahab (meadows of Gold) civet was among the many trade items that caravans controlled by Ghana empire carried from the Niger family to North Africa.

The small Indian civet occurs in most of India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, South and central china and Taiwan. Small Indian civets spends most of the time on the ground but they also clime well. That means they are arboreal also. As they are solitary the main method for communication with each other is scent marking. Little is known about mating system in Indian civets. It is round the year and seasonal also depending on the regions. Now-a-days civet cat is an endangered species.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own.)

Radhakanta Seth is an Former-Income tax officer in Sambalpur.  He is a Freelance writer and his articles have been published in some Oriya dailies like Sambad, Samaj, Dharitri and English dailies like The Telegraph and in a sociological journal ‘Folklore’ published from Kolka

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