What are civets?
It's a difficult question, because civets are impossible to describe.1
But we do know that:
Civets are omnivorous, supplementing a meat diet (both hunted and scavenged) with fruit, eggs, and possibly roots. One of the Common Palm Civet's favorite fruits is the coffee "berry." The coffee bean within often survives, and it is sometimes gathered and sold as caphe cut chon ("fox-dung coffee") in Vietnam or Kopi Luwak ("civet coffee") in Indonesia.2
It has been suggested that the practice of eating palm civets may have resulted in the SARS virus outbreak of 2003. In January 2004, Guangdong province in China banned sales of civet cats (they are not cats) and ordered the slaughter of all captive civets. In January 2004 the United States announced an embargo on the importation of civets.2
Felis lybica is an example of a civet.3 (The following are not: onca, psipsina, garfield, and crookshanks.)
The French have their own idea of what a civet is: