how long to safely leave canned cat food out

How Long to Safely Leave Canned Cat Food Out

If you’re feeding canned food to your cat, there’s always a possibility that your cat may not finish all the food you keep. Sometimes, you don’t have enough time to take the remaining food and freeze it, or you may just forget it amidst the hundreds of things you do in any given day.

This brings up an important question. How long can you safely leave canned or wet cat food outside, without it getting spoiled?

To answer this question, you should know the factors that could spoil the food.

canned food

Factors That Spoil Food

  • Temperature

One of the major factors that spoil any food is room temperature. If you live in a warm place where the temperature is about 30 degrees or more, the food spoils within 20 minutes. On the other hand, if your room temperature is much lower, then you could keep it out for about an hour.

But in general, you’ll have the heater on during winters and the room temperature will rarely go below 20 degrees. In such a case, never leave the food for more than 30 minutes maximum.

  • Air

The other major aspect that spoils food is air. There are many bacteria present in the air and these bacteria could enter your food, when exposed in the open. These bacteria mix with the canned food and could change its composition. When exposed for long periods of time, say a few hours, the canned food will be spoilt by this bacteria.

This is why strive to cover the food as much as possible, so the bacteria in the air doesn’t spoil the food.

  • Moisture

Another potential food spoiler is moisture. When there is excess moisture in the air, it spoils the food quickly. Ideally, you should not keep the canned cat food open for more than 15 minutes in places where the humidity levels are more than 75 to 80%. If the humidity (moisture) in the air is low, say around 30%, you can keep the food open for about 30 minutes at the maximum.

Overall,  temperature, air and moisture or humidity levels in the air can cause the canned cat food to spoil easily.

Precautions to Take to Prevent Spoilage

There are a ton of things you can do to prevent the canned cat food from getting spoiled. Let’s look at some of the easy ways.

  • Serve in Small Quantities

One of the easiest and the simplest way to preserve cat food is to reduce the serving size. Monitor your cat’s eating pattern and based on it, you can estimate how much cat food, your feline can eat in a given meal. Stick to this level every meal, so the wastage is greatly reduced even if you forget to pick up the remaining.

If you have small kittens, give them no more than two teaspoons of food, as their stomach is small and their digestive system is not developed enough to eat and process a lot of food.

Just use your judgment and in most cases, you’ll be right!

If you want to learn more about the best food for kittens, click here.

  • Refrigeration

The best way to preserve canned cat food is by refrigerating it as soon as you open it. All canned cat manufacturers recommend that the food is refrigerated after it is opened.

However, cats don’t like cold food. So, the best option is to open the can, take some amount of food for the first meal and refrigerate. Next time, when you take more food, simply warm it in a microwave, so the food is not cold. That said, cats can’t eat too hot food as it will burn their tongue and mouth. So, just warm the food to ensure that it is not cold. No heating, please.

  • Ziploc bags

You can leave the remaining food in the can, but that could dry the food, especially when you keep it in the refrigerator. Instead, use disposable Ziploc bags to store the remaining food. The advantage is that you can easily warm the food by placing the bag in the sink and running warm water over it. In terms of storage too, it will not occupy a ton of space and can be squeezed anywhere.

  • Expiration dates

All canned food have an expiration date. So, watch out for this, and never give expired food to your cat. This could make your cat fall sick and maybe even be fatal for your pet, in some rare cases.

Why do you want to take a chance? Simply throw out expired food. All cat food will have a “use by” or “best by” date and this is the expiration date. Some manufacturers may not give a specific date, but might say, “one year from the date of manufacture” or “six months from the date of manufacture.” In such cases, you’ll have to calculate from the date of manufacture that will be printed.

Either way, make sure never to feed expired food to your cat.

All the above discussion revolves around canned or wet food. The other kind of food that you can give your cat is dry food. Let’s see what precautions you need to take for dry cat foods.

canned food for cats

Dry Cat Foods

Though dry cat foods are more convenient, they come with their own set of problems as well. Dry food loses nutrients when stored for long periods of time. Improper storage can cause dry foods to get spoilt too.

Here are some dos and don’ts with dry food.

  • Moisture spoils the food fast. So, make sure you keep the dry food away from moisture and in a dry place.
  • Though you don’t have to freeze dry food, don’t expose it too hot or too cold conditions, as this could change the nutritional value of the food.
  • It is best you keep the food in the original bag as they are designed for storing these foods.
  • Again check the expiration dates before you serve it to your cat.

In short, cat foods have to be handled properly to ensure they don’t get spoilt quickly.


  1. How to Store Wet Cat Food, WikiHow

Leave a reply

Please enter your name here
Please enter your comment!