Chemical cat at large in Japanese city, officials warn

Officials in a Japanese city have a warning for residents: Don’t touch the cat covered in toxic chemicals.

The unfortunate feline is missing after apparently falling into a tank of liquid containing hexavalent chromium at a metal plating factory, the city of Fukuyama in western Japan said Monday.

According to Japanese news outlet Asahi Shimbun, a trail of yellowish-brown paw prints leading away from the tank was discovered Monday morning by an employee at Nomura Plating Fukuyama Factory. Surveillance footage later showed the cat heading out of the plant the night before.

Hexavalent chromium is a highly acidic and carcinogenic chemical that can cause skin irritation when touched and respiratory problems when inhaled. The factory says its workers wear masks and rubber gloves when handling it, Asahi reported.

Local environmental officials have urged residents not to approach or touch any cat that “appears abnormal,” and to contact the city or police if they see one.

The company said part of a sheet placed over the tank had been turned over.

A spokesperson told Agence France-Presse that the company had immediately alerted the police, city officials and the factory’s neighbors.

“The incident woke us up to the need to take measures to prevent small animals like cats from sneaking in, which is something we had never anticipated before,” the spokesperson said.

As of Tuesday, no one had reported seeing the animal, which may have died due to the chemical exposure.