The African civet is an omnivorous generalist, taking small vertebrates, invertebrates, eggs, carrion, and vegetable matter. It is capable of taking on poisonous invertebrates (such as the millipedes most other species avoid) and snakes. Prey is primarily detected by smell and sound rather than by sight.
Like all civets it has perineal glands that produce a fluid known as civet, which it spreads on markers in its territory to claim its range. It is used in the perfume industry.
Some civets, such as the African civet and the Congo water civet, are semiaquatic. Although most civets live on the ground, palm civets are found in trees and eat fruit.
The perineal gland secretion, civet, has been the basic ingredient for many perfumes for hundreds of years and is still being used today although on the decline since the creation of synthetic musk. African civets have been kept in captivity and milked for their civet which is diluted into perfumes. They can secrete three to four grams of civet per week and it can be sold for just under five hundred dollars per kilogram. The WSPA says that Chanel, Cartier, and Lancôme have all admitted to using civet in their products and that laboratory tests detected the ingredient in Chanel No. 5.