How Long Can Wet Cat Food Sit Out

icon June 18, 2024

Feeding your cat involves more than just selecting the right food; it also requires proper handling and storage to ensure your pet's health and safety. Wet cat food, in particular, requires special attention due to its perishable nature. This article will explore how long wet cat food can sit out, whether canned cat food goes bad, proper cat food storage, the advisability of leaving wet cat food out overnight, how long dry cat food can sit out, refrigeration guidelines for wet cat food, and whether canned cat food needs refrigeration.

How Long Can Wet Cat Food Sit Out?

Wet cat food, also known as canned cat food, is highly perishable and should be handled with care to prevent spoilage and bacterial growth. 

General Guidelines

As a rule of thumb, wet cat food should not sit out for more than 4 hours at room temperature.

After this time, the food starts to spoil, becoming less appetizing and potentially harmful due to bacterial growth. This time frame can be shorter in warmer environments where bacteria proliferate more rapidly.

Risks of Leaving Wet Cat Food Out Too Long

  • Bacterial Growth: Bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria can quickly multiply, posing a risk of foodborne illnesses to your cat.
  • Loss of Nutritional Value: Exposure to air and temperature changes can degrade the nutrients in the food.
  • Unpleasant Odors: Spoiled food develops a foul smell, which can deter your cat from eating and create an unpleasant environment.
    →Also Read: Do Cats Need Wet Food

    ♦ How Long Can Homemade Wet Cat Food Sit Out?

    Homemade wet cat food should not sit out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. This short time frame helps prevent bacterial growth and spoilage, ensuring the food remains safe and nutritious for your cat. Refrigerate any unused portions immediately to maintain freshness.
    → Related: Homemade Cat Food

How Long Can Dry Cat Food Sit Out?

Dry cat food is more stable than wet food and can sit out for much longer without spoiling.

General Guidelines

Dry cat food can typically sit out for up to 48 hours.

However, to maintain its freshness and prevent it from becoming stale or contaminated:

  • Store Properly: Keep the food in its original packaging or an airtight container.
  • Replace Regularly: Regularly replace the food in your cat's bowl to ensure it remains fresh and appealing.

Risks of Leaving Dry Cat Food Out Too Long

  • Loss of Flavor and Texture: Prolonged exposure to air can cause the food to become stale, making it less palatable for your cat.
  • Pests: Leaving dry food out for extended periods can attract pests like ants and rodents.
  • Nutrient Degradation: While slower than wet food, dry food can still lose some of its nutritional value over time when exposed to air and light.

Cat Food Storage

Proper storage of cat food, both wet and dry, is crucial to maintaining its freshness and nutritional value.

Storing Unopened Canned Cat Food

  • Cool, Dry Place: Store unopened cans in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures.
  • Stable Temperature: Avoid areas where the temperature fluctuates significantly, as this can affect the integrity of the can and its contents.

Storing Opened Canned Cat Food

  • Refrigeration: Once opened, transfer any unused wet cat food to an airtight container and refrigerate it. This helps preserve its freshness and prevent bacterial growth.
  • Cover the Can: If you choose to store the food in the original can, cover it with a lid specifically designed for pet food cans or plastic wrap to reduce exposure to air.

Storing Dry Cat Food

  • Airtight Containers: Transfer dry cat food to airtight containers to protect it from air, moisture, and pests.
  • Cool, Dry Place: Store the containers in a cool, dry place to maintain the food's quality and prevent spoilage.

Does Canned Cat Food Go Bad?

Yes, canned cat food can go bad, just like any other perishable product. The shelf life of unopened canned cat food is typically quite long, often between one to two years, depending on the manufacturer. However, once opened, the food’s exposure to air and bacteria accelerates its spoilage.

Signs of Spoiled Canned Cat Food

  • Bad Odor:
    A sour or rotten smell is a clear indicator of spoilage.
  • Mold or Discoloration:
    Visible mold growth or a change in color suggests that the food is no longer safe to eat.
  • Swollen Can:
    If the can is bulging or swollen, it indicates bacterial contamination and should be discarded immediately.
  • Expired Date:
    Always check the expiration date on the can before feeding it to your cat.

Can I Leave Wet Cat Food Out Overnight?

Leaving wet cat food out overnight is not recommended. As previously mentioned, wet cat food should not sit out for more than 4 hours. Leaving it out overnight significantly increases the risk of bacterial contamination and spoilage.

Consequences of Leaving Wet Cat Food Out Overnight

  • Bacterial Growth: Prolonged exposure to room temperature allows harmful bacteria to multiply, potentially causing foodborne illnesses in your cat.
  • Nutrient Degradation: Nutrients can break down over time, reducing the food's nutritional value.
  • Unappetizing Food: Spoiled food may deter your cat from eating, leading to potential nutritional deficiencies if this becomes a habit.

Does Canned Cat Food Need to Be Refrigerated?

Unopened canned cat food does not need to be refrigerated. It should be stored in a cool, dry place until it is ready to be used. However, once opened, it must be refrigerated to prevent spoilage and bacterial growth.

Refrigeration of Opened Canned Cat Food

  • Immediate Refrigeration: After opening, any unused portion should be refrigerated promptly.
  • Storage Tips: Use airtight containers or cover the can to minimize air exposure and keep the food fresh.

Importance of Refrigeration

  • Preservation of Freshness: Refrigeration slows down the spoilage process and keeps the food fresh.
  • Prevention of Bacterial Growth: Cold temperatures inhibit the growth of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.

How Long Can Wet Cat Food Be Refrigerated?

Refrigerating wet cat food slows down bacterial growth and helps maintain its freshness.

General Guidelines

  • Opened wet cat food can be safely refrigerated for up to 5-7 days. Here’s how to ensure it stays fresh:
  • Airtight Containers: Transfer the food to an airtight container to minimize air exposure and prevent odor absorption from other foods.
  • Cover the Can: If keeping the food in the original can, cover it tightly with a lid or plastic wrap.

Best Practices for Refrigeration

  • Label and Date: Mark the container with the date you opened the food to keep track of its storage time.
  • Consistent Temperature: Store the food in the main compartment of the refrigerator, where the temperature is more stable compared to the door.


Proper handling and storage of cat food, particularly wet food, are essential for your cat's health and well-being. Wet cat food should not sit out for more than 4 hours, and it must be refrigerated immediately after opening to maintain its freshness and prevent bacterial contamination. Dry cat food can sit out for longer periods but should still be stored properly to retain its nutritional value and palatability. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your cat's food remains safe and nutritious, contributing to their overall health and happiness.

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