LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- A local rescue shelter stepped in to save more than five dozen cats who were accidentally exposed to a contagious, life-threatening feline illness.

Earlier this week, Bartow County Animal Control was forced to euthanize three cats at its facility after they appeared to be showing signs of feline distemper. The illness can cause cats to experience vomiting, diarrhea and even death from dehydration.

Bartow County officials didn't have the space to keep the remaining cats -- possibly exposed to the illness --quarantined and asked Furkids Animal Rescue and Shelter to rescue them.

The rescue group took all 61 cats to their shelter in Norcross where they are under quarantine and being cared for. Furkids is providing medical care, vaccinations and "TLC" to help sick cats get better and keep the healthy ones safe.

<p>Local rescue group Furkids had to rescue more than 61 and place them under quarantine after an illness hit a local animal control facility. (Photo: Tyson Paul)</p>

“These cats would have lost their lives for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Samantha Shelton, Furkids founder and CEO. “Furkids is grateful that the professionals at Bartow County Animal Control reached out to us, and regardless of the cost, we knew we had to help."

Once the cats are cleared, Furkids said, they will make all of them available for adoption sometime after July 9. (Click here to visit

Photos: Cats under quarantine after exposure to illness Story continues after gallery.

Meanwhile, the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter is also placing the cats at its shelter under a voluntary 14-day quarantine after reports of the same illness. There is no reported link between the illness at the Bartow County facility and the Gwinnett County facility.

According to a spokesperson with Gwinnett County, an animal welfare and enforcement officer found an unresponsive kitten while cleaning their shelter earlier Saturday. Preliminary testing by a local veterinarian indicates the kitten had feline panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper. The University of Georgia will perform a necropsy to confirm that it was the illness.

The sources of the original infections at the Bartow and Gwinnett County facilities, which can be spread by pet overpopulation, are still unknown. Officials are working to clean both locations to halt the outbreak.

Dog intake, adoptions and rescues at the Gwinnett County Animal Control will continue as usual.