My experience hand rearing Palm Civet
The first encounter
Having a Asian Palm Civet as pet was not something I planned in my life, and I am a person who needed to plan out almost everything to function. I have a Domestic Long Haired cat as a pet and I thought he was already taking a lot of my time and attention. Never have I expected that on 29th October 2018, my life was about to be disrupted by two tiny, orphaned and adorable Palm Civet kittens.
Born at noon, my brother found the mother giving birth to three kittens. She then ate one of the kittens alive, while another had a huge gash on it’s inner left flank and the last kitten was lying limply at one side. We decided to rescue the two kittens, in case they were about to be lunch for the mother as well.
This was when I had the task laid out for me.
One to Two Weeks Old Kittens
Housing the Palm Civet Kittens
Orphaned Palm Civet kittens requires a lot of attention and must be handled delicately. Since we took the kittens only a few hours from birth, I quickly placed them in separate boxes with soft cotton bedding for comfort. The reason I separated them was because one of the kitten which I named Luca, had a gash on it’s inner left flank. The other kitten, which I called Curly, was slightly smaller in size than Luca but I was afraid his tiny claws could get caught in Luca’s wound and might infect it.
Separated, the kittens require external heat all day so I placed warm water bottles and rubber gloves filled with warm water under their cotton beddings so that the warmth would seep through to the kittens. I replaced the warm water regularly.
Although I replaced their cotton bedding whenever they were soiled, I never change the box they are in. I read that changing the box might make the kittens insecure and uncomfortable and they would take time to adjust to their new surrounding.
Feeding Palm Civet Kittens
I have never had an experience feeding one-day old kittens, what more a wild animal. After much Googling, I fed them about 3-4ml of Kitten’s Goat’s Milk each session for 5-6 times a day or until they stop feeding. I used the 1ml syringe since a bottle is not suitable for kittens this young. I planned the feeding interval for every 5 hours or so. This includes waking up in the middle of the night to feed them.
At this age, the kittens’ eyes are closed and would sleep most of the day. Feeding is an easy task and sometimes they would end up cuddling and sleeping on me as I fed them. I assumed it was for my warmth.
A newborn Palm Civet kitten would weight around 80g and their weight would gradually increase from there.
Three To Four Weeks Old Kittens
Healthcare of Palm Civet Kittens
Although I fed both the kittens at a regular interval and gave them much care, it is not uncommon for these kittens to fall sick, especially since they have never had their mother’s “first milk”.
A mother’s “first milk” contains colostrum, first form of milk produced by the mammary glands of mammals that contains antibodies and immune cells (as lymphocytes) to protect newborns from diseases.
Both the kittens under my care have never had their mother’s “first milk” and nearing their third week, they both had diarrhoea. This could be caused by their weak antibody or by the milk that I gave them.
Their stool, which was normally light brown in colour started turning into bright yellow colour and was soft. After the third day, their stool was soft and watery. I knew that this was not a normal condition however, I could not find a veterinary who are experienced with exotic or wild animals at that time. I went to a regular veterinary and they administered water under the kittens’ skin due to dehydration but nothing else was administered and their condition worsen.
By the fifth day, Curly had lost a lot of weight and Luca was heading to the same condition as Curly.
The next day, I was lucky to have found online about Exotic Animal Veterinary in Taman Melawati, Kuala Lumpur and brought both Curly and Luca for help. Curly’s condition was not ideal, especially since he weighed only 86g, which was a newborn kitten’s weight. Luca on the other hand weighed 103g.
Dato’ Dr. S. Vellayan, the owner and vet of Exotic Animal Veterinary injected both Luca and Curly to help stop their diarrhoea. He provided me with anti-diarrhoea medication, gripe water and oral rehydration salts to help improve both Curly’s and Luca’s condition.
I administered 0.5ml anti-diarrhoea medication 5 times a day, a pinch of oral rehydration salt mixed with water and administered 1ml per kitten for 5 times a day and if any of them had bloated stomach, I would give 0.5ml gripe water per day.
Sadly though, Curly did not make it. He was so underweight and weak that 2 days after meeting Dr. Vellayan, he died. Luca on the other hand started gaining her appetite again. And since I suspected it was the milk that gave them diarrhoea, I changed to a different brand called “Milkodog”. I noticed that with this milk along with the medications, Luca’s stool returned to it’s natural colour and she grew healthier and more active each day.
One Month to Two Months Old Kitten
Healthy Food Intake & Weight Increase
After the diarrhoea episode, Luca’s appetite gained it’s momentum. By the time she turned one month old, she could drink milk more than 10ml per session, 5 times a day. Her weight increased steadily every week too, at about 40g per week.
Two weeks after turning one month old, I introduced her to fruits like bananas and mangoes. She likes her bananas and mangoes when they are not too ripe. Bananas turns her stool dark brown while mangoes turns her stool into lighter brown. She turns hyperactive after eating mangoes in comparison to bananas. This could be caused by the fructose that was immediately absorbed into her system.
Skin Condition – Fungus
At this point, I liked wiping her down with unmedicated and unscented wet tissue, especially after she had her meal or after she urinate. This, I found out, was wrong.
Her wet fur that did not dry properly caused a skin condition, turning her skin flaky and her fur started falling off in clumps. In just a few days’ time, she had some bald spots near her head and back and she kept trying to scratch her skin even though her legs were too short to reach them.
I brought her back to Exotic Animal Veterinary and after analysing her fur under the microscope, Dr. Azman concluded it was a fungal infection and provided a shampoo with Chlorhexidine in it to bathe her in once every 3 days for a period of 10 days’ time. The shampoo must be diluted in warm water though, since it is too concentrated.
After 10 days, I met with Dr. Vellayan again for Luca’s follow-up whom in turn gave me Potassium permanganate (crystals); a type of antiseptic bath that is used to treat skin infections like dermatitis, eczema and fungal infections. Potassium permanganate can be used for both animals (aquatic and otherwise) and humans.
I bathed Luca with diluted Potassium permanganate once per week. Her skin condition improved tremendously, fur grew back on the bald patches and she did not scratch herself so much anymore.
I am the type of person who believes in modern medicine and vaccination, in both humans and animals. When Dr. Vellayan informed me that Luca should have her first vaccination when she turned 2 months old, I was prepared. I also wanted her to have better immune system, especially since she never had her mother’s “first milk”.
Similar to cats and dogs, Luca’s vaccination consists of injecting her the Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Rhinotracheitis (Feline Herpesvirus). FeLV is a virus that causes cancer in felines and suppresses their immune system whereas Feline Herpesvirus is a virus that causes chronic upper respiratory disease. These are common diseases in domestic and wild animals hence why she was vaccinated for both.
After vaccination, it is advised not to bathe the Palm Civet for a week.
Two Months to Three Months Old
Food Intake and Weight Increase
By the time Luca turned two months old, she could drink more than 30ml per session, 3-4 times a day. She is becoming more and more nocturnal, sleeping most of the day and becoming active right after 8 or 9 o’clock at night. She also eats more at night, sometimes more than 2 fingers of bananas or half a mango. By this time too, she weighed more than half a kilogram.
I started introducing other fruits like papaya and chiku (sapota). She does not like papayas very much but she loves the chiku and quickly chomp them down.
Palm Civets are omnivorous animals. They eat both fruits and meat to get energy. At this age, Luca’s teeth are not yet sharp enough to tear into meat but soon, I might have to start giving her fresh chicken meat as part of her diet, other than fruits.
At three months old, Luca was up for her second vaccination, three weeks since her first vaccination.
Similar to the first time, Luca was injected with both Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) and Feline Rhinotracheitis (Feline Herpesvirus). I was also advised to test Luca’s stool for intestinal parasites that are common in cats – so I brought a sample of her night’s stool to the veterinary. I was happy to find out that she had no health issues whatsoever.
After the second vaccination, if I do decide to keep her as my pet, I would have to bring her for vaccination annually. In this case, I still have not decided what I would do next.
Palm Civet Behaviour and How to Care for Them
I find it easy to care for my Palm Civet since she sleeps most of the time in the day. At night however, she is active which includes running around, jumping and climbing on doors, curtains, cupboards, stairs and more. This is why, once the Palm Civet is older, they should be placed in a cage to prevent them from destroying your household items.
What type of cage is best? Get a three-tier cage and place a tree trunk that would fit in the cage for your Palm Civet to climb and play on. If you could afford more, try getting a made-to-order steel cage measured around 4 feet by 6 feet (4’ x 6’) and have a medium-sized tree trunk inside so that your Palm Civet could play, climb and move about freely in it.
An adult Palm Civet’s body could measure up to 55 centimetres and it’s tail could measure up to 45 centimetres long. A large enclosure would allow free roaming and comfort for your Palm Civet.
Is It Hard To Raise The Asian Palm Civet As A Pet?
Dedication, Money and Love
Raising the Asian Palm Civet, similar to any other animal, takes dedication, money and love.
Since I raised her since she was one-day old, I have to say that it took a lot of dedication waking up in the dead of the night to check on her to see if she was cold, to feed her milk and to nurse her back to health when she was sick. This requires sacrifice with time, especially since I work and travel a lot. I am lucky however, that my mother is also an animal lover and was willing to help look after Luca based on my instructions whenever I am not around.
If you own an orchard then you are lucky but for me, my family only have a few fruit trees at home and they bear fruit seasonally. So I end up buying fruits for Luca once in a few days which is an additional cost. A Palm Civet has a lifespan of about 20 years and on the long run, this requires more money and commitment as well. Not forgetting to mention, building a proper, comfortable cage and providing the best place for her to live in.
Love and patience is highly required when raising a Palm Civet. I absolutely adore my Luca, especially when she is being an angel in the day; always cuddling next to me or perching on my shoulders when I’m doing my work. However, when night falls and she start being super active, it took a lot of patience to deal with her. Due to her active nature at night, I have many scars on my arms and neck from her claws and teeth from when she climbs on me or bit me. Even when she was just being playful, her claws ended up bleeding my skin.
However, if you are ready for all this and more, then just like me, you must get a license from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) to raise a Palm Civet as pet.
On the other hand, if you think you could not afford to care for your Palm Civet for the rest of it’s life, you should rehabilitate it back to the wild. Rehabilitation also requires patience and time from your part. DO NOT just pick it up from the cage and leave it in the wild. Your Palm Civet needs time to adjust to its surroundings and this process could take up to a few weeks.
The best age to rehabilitate would be between 4-5 months.
How to rehabilitate a Palm Civet? Bring your Palm Civet to an orchard or somewhere where there are fruit trees. Then, let him or her run free for a few hours and wait for it to return to you. When it returns, bring it back home. Repeat this process every day so that the Palm Civet could gradually get comfortable with its surrounding and become more independent. After a few more times of doing this routine and when your Palm Civet is now comfortable and independent, he or she will play around in the trees and will no longer return to you.
Rehabilitation can also be done to older Palm Civets however, it would require longer time.
PLEASE make sure to rehabilitate them right. If it takes longer than necessary, then please make time. If your Palm Civet had been highly dependable on you, they would not be able to find food on their own and might die in the wild; cold and lonely. Please be responsible with your choices. Every life matters.