The 50-year-old posed as a cat-lover when visiting refuges, taking home at least fifteen cats over a period of several months, La Stampa reported.
But suspicions were raised among staff at the shelters run by Aidaa, the Italian animal welfare association, when he came up with excuses to avoid routine checks on the care of adopted animals.
Initially believing he might be part of a satanist group, they carried out a surprise check and "caught him in the act" as he was about to kill a cat he intended to eat, La Stampa said.
Lorenzo Croce, the president of Aidaa, said the man would ask to adopt "black cats with specific characteristics. They had to be around three years old, and quite plump.”
"He even admitted to killing black cats and eating them in the company of friends," Croce added.
The man confessed to having eaten the other cats in his care, and was arrested for maltreatment. The man, who is married with two children, now risks a prison sentence of between three months and a year, or a fine of up to €15,000.