Authorities say several dozen cats have died in a house fire in northern Virginia.

Fairfax County fire department spokesman Dan Schmidt says a pet-sitter went to check on a home in Clifton on Saturday afternoon and found it full of heavy smoke. He says she called authorities who arrived a few minutes later.

Schmidt says the smoldering fire became extinguished on its own and firefighters found cats and a couple cages with birds inside. He says they rescued eight cats, but several dozen died.

Animal control officers also were at the scene.

Schmidt says the homeowners, who rescue cats and birds, were not home at the time. The cause of the fire is under investigation.