The man had used sparrows and caged birds to lure both stray cats and domestic ones in the city of Jiujiang in southern Jiangsu province, the 163.com and news.ifeng.com websites reported.
Many of the cats were found in cages in the back of a small truck, some near death and mewing faintly in the heat, while others were recovered in a hut near a highway, cooled only by a ceiling fan. The man usually sold the cats for about 30 yuan ($4.40) each, the report said, citing a local policeman.
The man, identified only as Sun, was arrested Sunday after another man complained to police that someone had been stealing his pets, including a mother nursing five kittens. Police said that if no owners came forward, they would just release the 500 cats, the report said.