Police in India are trying to track down a leopard that sparked panic in the northern city of Meerut over the weekend.

The animal strayed inside a hospital, a cinema and an apartment block while evading captors.

Authorities closed schools and colleges in the city, which is 60km northeast of the Indian capital, after the leopard was discovered prowling the streets on Sunday.

"Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to track the leopard down. We have launched a massive hunt for the beast," said additional district magistrate SK Dubey.

The animal was found inside an empty ward of an army hospital before wildlife officers were called and managed to fire a tranquiliser dart into it.

"But despite that he managed to break [out through] the iron grilles and escaped. He then sneaked into the premises of a cinema hall before entering an apartment block. After that we lost track of the cat," Mr Dubey said.

Authorities have urged the closure of markets in the city of 3.5 million until the animal, which has left six people injured, was captured.

Police, soldiers and wildlife officials are trying to hunt it down, but their efforts are being hampered by large crowds keen to catch a glimpse of the animal.