Cats do not have constant eating habits. Nearly all pet owners will confirm this statement since they are well familiar with the sight of a half-finished bowl of cat food. Sometimes cats will eat only a couple of bites leaving the rest to return later during the day. If you threw all the left cat food every time, you would end up wasting quite a lot of money. It’s better to find out how long you can leave cat food out and how to store it properly. In this article, we will give thoughtful answers to these questions, and you’ll learn when to leave your pet’s food out and when to clear it away.

Table of Contents:

How Long Can You Leave Wet Cat Food Out?
Can I Leave Wet Cat Food Out Overnight?
Factors That Spoil Wet Food
Feeding Your Pet with Wet Cat Food
Final Words

How Long Can You Leave Wet Cat Food Out?

Wet cat food is available in cans or sachets. It’s safe to administer to a cat till the expiry date if left unopened. However, once already opened, store any wet cat food in a cool and dry area. The moment the can is open, the food becomes exposed to the air and its bacteria. If it’s warm, the rate at which the food goes off speeds up. Even if the food doesn’t get contaminated with such virulent bacteria as E Coli, salmonella, or listeria, quite dangerous germs living everywhere at home will spoil it in the long run. The same refers to homemade food. If you are used to cooking food for your cat, it turns to be much like canned food – almost sterile with no pathogenic microbes like salmonella. However, lacking any preservatives, homemade cooked food serves a perfect environment for microbes to develop. 

If the pet doesn’t eat the whole food in the bowl, you can’t leave it out for more than four hours if the room temperature is above 50°F. If left, the bowl should be emptied and appropriately washed with water and soap before you refill it with fresh food. 

If you are an owner of a kitten, a sick or elderly cat, you should especially be attentive not to err with wet food storage. Serve only fresh food to cats with poor health.

Wet Cat Food

Can I Leave Wet Cat Food Out Overnight?

The answer to this question is a firm, “No.” You can never leave your cat’s wet food out overnight since it will unconditionally get spoiled. Generally, canned food left out gets spoiled anywhere between one and four hours, depending on the room temperature. If the room is cold, a couple of hours won’t play a decisive role in the quality of the food in an open can. But if it’s quite warm, do never risk leaving an opened can unattended. 

Aside from getting spoiled, even an hour is enough for wet food to dry, becoming unappetizing and inedible for cats. 

If there’s no option for you but leave food for your cat overnight, you should only use dry food. 

How Long Can You Leave Dry Cat Food Out?

For many cat owners who have to leave food for their pets for hours due to being out of the house, dry food appears a great solution. However, dry food shouldn’t be placed outside for a long time, either. This type of cat food oxidizes. The process starts when oils in the composition of dry food contact with oxygen and make it rancid. In only 48 hours, kibble food becomes fully oxidized if left open while dry food in a sealed bag deteriorates in 14 days. 

There’s no such thing that some dry food might oxidize slower than others (named anti-oxidants). Even if the label on the dry food pack says “mixed tocopherols” or “anti-oxidants,” the terms for oxidation remain the same.

Therefore, even if you choose dry food to feed your pet, change it every other day. Here are some tips for storing dry food more efficiently and increasing its use time: 

  • Make sure the bags you keep the dry food have seals. These can be zippers, zip-locks, or even velcro. Squeeze out the air inside the bag.
  • Airtight containers might come handy, too. 
  • By freezing the kibbles, you can prevent oxidization and rot. However, mind that when unfreezing the kibbles, they will change in build and taste. It can make cats reasonably picky. 

Dry Cat Food

Factors That Spoil Wet Food

All food types have expiry dates, and cat’s food is not an exception. However, if humans can spot spoiled food easily and not take it, kittens aren’t keen enough for that. As you already know, wet food has a much shorter life span than dry food. Certain factors can speed up its spoilage. Let’s sort them out:


The first and significant factor affecting the lifespan of any food is temperature. The higher the room temperature is, the quicker the food spoils. The food that goes off in only 20 minutes in a warm climate can stay up to an hour if the environment is cold. You should never be misled by the cold weather outdoors in winter since the running heater raises the house’s temperature. 


An open can of wet food gets in contact with air, which has bacteria pernicious for the food. When mixed with wet food, those bacteria change the composition of the food and dry it out. To avoid it, make sure you cover the open can even if you’re going to leave it out only for a while. 


Moisture in the room air is another factor to blame for food spoilage. The higher the humidity of the air in the room, the faster the food goes off. If you’ve checked the humidity level in your house and it’s above 75%, leave an opened can out no longer than for 15 minutes. You can leave an open out for up to 30 minutes in rooms with a significantly lower humidity level (around 30%). 

Precautions to Take to Prevent Spoilage

There are several working methods of expanding the shelf life of cats’ wet food cans. We strongly recommend using them to both save your money on new cans and prevent your pet from getting health problems. 

Furthermore, the way you’ve stored unopened canned food also plays a decisive role in its shelf life. Keep the food in a dry, cold, and dark place in its original package. If you have an option to store the food in a chillier place than your house (e.g., a garage), make use of it. 

Avoid keeping canned food in the freezer, or it will change its texture and taste. 

Serve in Small Portions

The basic rule of preserving a cat’s food is giving the right portion. To detect how much food your feline needs per meal to feel fed yet not overeaten, make some observations. Add and remove food to find the perfect portion size and later stick to it. This way, you will always find your pet’s bowl emptied and won’t have to throw away the leftover. 

Mind that the correct portion is determined basically by the age of the cat. Kittens have smaller stomachs that can’t digest much food. Count on this and give them only two tablespoons of food per meal. 

Refrigerate the Wet Food after Opening

Refrigerating an open can is the best way to keep it edible for days. Generally, all manufacturers of cat food recommend putting a can into the fridge once it’s opened. This way, it will stay fresh up to four days. However, when feeding your pet, remember to warm it to room temperature since they don’t eat cold food. Cover the food with a plastic wrap and put it into a microwave on a low setting for a short time. Avoid overheating the food not to burn your little pet’s tongue.

Warm Cat Wet Food in Microwave

Use Disposable Ziploc Bags

Using a disposable Ziploc bag is an excellent way of keeping your cat food fresh longer. If you store an opened can in the fridge, it will dry out quickly, becoming inedible for your pet. Just place the leftover food into a Ziploc bag and squeeze it anywhere in your fridge. It won’t take up much space. This way, you also get an easy way of warming the food: you can either put the bag into a microwave or place it in the sink and let warm water run over it for a while. 

Check Expiration Dates

All food types, including cats’ canned food, have expiry dates. You should check them even before buying, right in the shop. Search for “best by” or “use by” marks on the can and strictly adhere to the dates mentioned. Some manufactures will not provide a specific date, but write “one year (the date can vary) after manufacture” and provide a printed manufacture date. In these cases, you will have to calculate the expiration date yourself. In all cases, you, as a cat parent, ought to stick to expiry dates and never give your pet expired food. Otherwise, your pet won’t avoid an upset stomach. 

Feeding Your Pet with Wet Cat Food

Feeding a cat with canned food has many benefits, primarily providing the animal with the necessary hydration. It’s especially beneficial for cats with diabetes, urinary tract problems, kidney diseases. Aside from that, there are several other advantages of administering wet food to cats. Those are as follows:

  1. Being desert animals, cats have a low thirst drive. Wet food can successfully compensate for it. 
  2. Wet food is a good source of protein. It ensures your pet gets complete nutrition and maintains the necessary muscle mass.
  3. As compared to dry food, canned food undergoes less processing. Therefore, wet food provides proteins in their natural state. 
  4. Cats are very picky when it comes to food. They quickly get bored at eating the same food for a specific period. Wet food comes in a vast diversity of tastes, flavors, and textures (chunks in jelly or gravy, loaf, and mousse). It has a delicious strong scent, which makes the food very attractive to cats. 
  5. If the cat has mouth or teeth issues, he will find it painful to eat dry food. Wet food, instead, serves as an excellent option: it’s soft and easily chewed. 
  6. Wet food has a low energy density. If an ordinary dry food diet provides over 3-4 kcal/g, a wet food diet provides 0.8-1.5 kcal/g. Hence, if you have a weight loss or weight prevention plan with your kitty, wet food is a better option.

Final Words

Scheming out a diet for your lovely cat, you should include both dry and wet food. The latter might appear more expensive, yet is highly beneficial in cats. What you should be utmost careful about is the freshness of the food. By all means, avoid feeding your pet with expired food since it may lead to serious health issues up to death. This article discussed how long you could keep the wet food out and keep the canned food fresh and edible longer. Take the report as a guide and keep your pet well-fed and healthy.


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