family of mammals

The Viverridae is a family of small to medium-sized mammals, the viverrids. They are in the Feliformia, the cat-like carnivores.

Temporal range: Eocene to Recent
A mosaic of four small photos of viverrids in trees
Viverrids, including (top left to bottom right), species of Paradoxurus, Genetta, Paguma and Arctictis
Scientific classification

Gray, 1821

The family is made up of 15 genera and 33 species.[1] It was named by John Edward Gray in 1821.[2] They are found all over the Oriental region, all over Africa and into southern Europe.

As they live in Madagascar and Celebes, this shows they also lived in the tropics of the Old World, and beyond it, over Wallace's line.[3]

Viverrids mostly live in tropical rainforest. They also live in woodland, savanna and mountains.



"Civet cat"


Many viverrids are civet cats, such as the genera Vivera, Civettictis and Viverricula. The term refers to their noticeable and (to us) unpleasant scent. It is sometimes used for other cats which happen to be rather smelly.

Vivverrids of the genus Genetta are known as 'genets', and there is another genus, Poiana, which are called 'linsangs'. The genet Genetta genetta is the only viverid to live in Europe. It is the striped-tail one at top right in the illustration above.



Viverrids are the most basal ('primitive') of all the families of cat-like animals and less specialized than the Felidae. Their skeletons are similar to those of fossils dating back to the Eocene, up to 50 million years ago.

In external characters, they are distinguished from the Felidae by the hind foot being five-toed and typically by the longer muzzle and shorter limbs. The skull differs as does the dental formula.[3] They have anal glands which may secrete a strong odour. Many species have striped tails.

Viverrids, though in the order Carnivora, are mostly omnivorous. The species popularly called "palm civets" are entirely herbivorous.

Civets and SARS


On January 13, 2004 the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an embargo on the importation of Civets into the United States. They said that the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus was found in Civets from China.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 548–559. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. Gray J.E. 1821. On the natural arrangement of vertebrose animals. London Medical Repository, 15(1): 296–310.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Pocock R.I. 1939. The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. – Volume 1. Taylor and Francis, London, 330–332.
  4. "SARS | 2004 Notice of Embargo of Civets | CDC".