Tamara my tar baby

9th May, 2018

Written by Kathryn Liprini, Fundraiser and Donations Manager of LEAPS (Lamberts and Elands Animal Protection Services)

When the police phoned LEAPS volunteer Isabel Vosloo about an abused cat in severe distress, she had no idea what horror awaited her. What greeted her at the scene was beyond anything she could have imagined…

Stuffed into a black plastic bag

It was a Saturday (17 March 2018) and the Eland’s Bay police had just called Isabel, our fearless fieldworker in Lambert’s Bay, a small village almost 300km outside Cape Town.

Another volunteer, Anel Engelbrecht, rushed out to keep the cat safe until Isabel could get there. Isabel raced through to the scene; on arrival she was confronted with the shocking sight of a little tabby cat stuffed into a black plastic bag and absolutely covered in a sticky black substance.

Initially, she was told the awful story that the cat had been put into a plastic bag which was set alight, causing the plastic to melt onto her but on further investigation, it appeared that she’d been dunked in tar and then placed into a plastic bag. The tarry substance was rock hard and had sealed most of her orifices shut; fortunately, her mouth and eyes were not. Thick lumps of fur were glued together and pulled at her skin and her tail was just one solid piece of tar.

Helping hands

Isabel immediately scooped her up and with the help of Rika Claessens, our wonderful LEAPS supporter in the area, they set to work figuring out the best way to help this precious soul. 

Despite everything she’d been through, the tabby was surprisingly calm and fully allowed us to help her. Little by little, we began removing the substance where we could, snipping away with scissors, starting with the most important “bits”. She gazed up at Isabel and we could see the hope shining in her big, green eyes.

She gave us further hope when she allowed us to help her eat and drink – she was very hungry and thirsty. We named her Tamara. 

Ups and downs

The news of Tamara was spreading far and wide, and support for her was pouring in from all over the world. We were sure to tell Tamara all about her new friends as far away as Texas USA, Germany, and even Australia.

Over the next few weeks Tamara received the best care and showed herself to have a really lovely nature. Donations poured in from well-wishers and we got her soft blankets, a bed of her own and a bed warmer, and toys; she also received skin treatments and immune boosters – anything to help this brave girl recover.

She went through a few ups and downs. She caught a kitty cold (snuffles) and developed quite a nasty chest infection. Wesland Animal Hospital in Vredenburg ensured she was given antibiotics and treatment for the snuffles. Through it all, her eyes stayed bright. 

Taking off the tar

It took a long time and hard work to get that awful, hardened tar off Tamara; much snipping and clipping, and repeated bath and oil treatments were needed. For the most part, she was so good when we were removing it, but when it came time to work on her tummy area, it was just too painful for her and she was anaesthetised in order for us to get the last of the tar off.

West Coast Community Veterinary Clinic (CVC) veterinary coordinator Ally Gericke and the wonderful people at Longacres Animal Hospital in Langebaan removed every last bit and got her looking good as new. In the end almost all her fur was gone, so she wore a little jersey to keep her warm and had a heating lamp in her cage at the vet.

An ideal home

One of the vet assistants at Longacres Animal Hospital, Xandri Pretorious, formed a special bond with Tamara and has decided to adopt her. This is the ideal home for her, not just because of how much Xandri cares about her, but because we discovered that she has a heart murmur, so being in the home of a vet assistant will be absolutely perfect.

Tamara’s journey is not yet over, but for now she is tar-free and in the best care. She’s loving and kind to humans, despite what a human put her through. And she’s happy.


Thank you to each and every person involved in Tamara’s story – from the Lambert’s Bay police who called it in to our earth-angel fieldworker, Isabel, and supporter Rika; to Wesland Animal Hospital, Ally and the West Coast CVC team, and all at Longacres Animal Hospital.

Thank you to every pair of human hands that touched her, to the wonderful people who transported her when needed, to everyone who donated or sent kind words of support, and of course to the amazing Xandri who has adopted her – we say THANK YOU for Helping the Paw!


By Xandri Pretorius, Tamara’s adopter

Working at Longacres Animal Hospital, I’ve seen a lot of animals and been privileged to have played a small part in their lives. When I met Tamara I just knew she’s a special girl and would have a big impact on my life.

She was brought into the practice by LEAPS and the West Coast CVC still mostly covered in tar, which we assisted Drs Reyneke and Kotzé in removing.


While working with her, I could not believe that after being through so much she was still able to trust humans. She was so patient and friendly through the whole process – she didn’t complain or even bite or scratch once.

When all the tar was removed she left the hospital under Ally Gericke’s care. Although she’d departed, I kept on wondering how it was going with Tamara and could not wait to see her again. So, when I heard that she was still looking for a home I immediately threw my hat into to the ring, knowing that I didn’t just want a fleeting part in her life – I wanted her to join my family.

Meant to be

The day I got to take Tamara home was one of the happiest and most exciting days of my life. She adapted to our family so quickly, as if she was meant to be with us all along. She’s been my baby for several weeks now and I cannot believe the progress she’s made.

Her hair is almost fully grown out now and her personality is really starting to shine through. She sleeps next to me every night on her fluffy blanky and loves chasing red dots and fishes on my tablet. She’s getting along very well with her doggy and cat “siblings”.

I’m eternally grateful to everyone who played a part in Tamara’s journey and I feel blessed to be able to call her my own. I’ll make sure that she will only know love and happiness for the rest of her life.

LEAPS – Helping the Paw

LEAPS is a registered non-profit animal welfare organisation tending to the needs of animals in the townships of Eland’s Bay and Lambert’s Bay on the West Coast, 220km outside Cape Town. The team consists of two dedicated full-time employees and several volunteers. They aim to educate people to better care for their pets and focus on animal sterilisations and basic health care in impoverished communities in the area. They also have feeding programmes in place and assist with injured or ill animals, amongst others.

The organisation is entirely dependent on donations and welcomes donations of funds as well as pet food and necessities such as kennels, collars, leads, blankets, etc.  

Find out more by following them on Facebook @LeapsFBPage