The Japanese on Wednesday briefly forgot about their economic woes to indulge in a bit of monkey business about a catnapping.

While television stations had no room for live coverage of a news conference by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto about the state of the economy, viewers were gripped almost nonstop by the tale of a monkey on the run after kidnapping a kitten.The saga started on Tuesday when a wild monkey came down from nearby wooded hills into the outskirts of Japan's second largest city, Osaka, a sprawling, high-rise metropolis.

After numerous sightings and news bulletins, the monkey was cornered by 50 police officers in the backyard of a home.

With capture imminent, the monkey took diversionary action by grabbing a several-month-old kitten belonging to the homeowner.

When the posse members briefly let their attention wander, the monkey sprang to freedom, still carrying the kitten.

As night fell on Wednesday, police officers were still scouring the city.