How long can wet cat food sit out? 3 factors that definitely spoil wet food


Your cat may not be a disciplined eater and may often leave its meal unfinished. Having unfinished bowls of cat food may be a common sight for you. If you have started giving your cat wet food, you may be how long can wet cat food sit out? Is it safe for cats to eat food that has been out for a long period of time?

How long can wet cat food sit out before going bad?

4 hours. That is how long most cat manufacturers advertise that their wet cat food can stay edible. Anything that has been left out in the open for more than 4 hours should be discarded and the feeding bowl cleaned with soap and water.

Mold and fungus may take days to grow but disease-causing bacteria can develop rapidly on wet cat food that has been left out in the open for a long time.

If you feel your cat is not finishing its meal completely and food is being wasted, don’t give full portions. Instead, do not serve more than a quarter of the meal and refrigerate the rest by closing the lid tightly.

How long can you leave dry cat food out?

Dry cat food does not have moisture so they tend to stay safe and edible for a longer period of time. It is safe enough to leave a bowl of dry cat food overnight without it harming your cat. But if they are exposed to moisture or have been mixed in a bowl along with wet cat food, they can also go bad quickly.

Even though dry cat food won’t go bad as quickly as wet cat food, dry food tends to lose its taste the longer they stay out. Also, it is not advisable to put dry food back into a container that has been left out as this can spoil fresh feed as well.

As a best practice considering your cat’s health, discard away dry cat food that has been left at the end of the day and clean the bowl with soap and water to remove any germs.

Why doesn’t my cat finish its food?

Cat’s are very picky eaters. They are not very enthusiastic when trying new food. That could be one of the reasons why they do not finish their food completely.

Cats are small animals with even smaller stomachs so they may not be able to finish the entire portion of their food. Most cat food sachets are not meant for a single cat, in fact, they can easily feed multiple cats.

Your cat may also be having food outside the home and this may be another reason why your cat is not finishing its food completely.

How often should I feed my cat?

Your cat should eat at least two meals a day, with 12 hours between each meal. But if you prefer to go the traditional way and give it a meal in the morning, afternoon, a snack and a dinner, that is fine too.

In case, you are giving just two meals a day and if more than 12 hours pass between two meals, your cat may suffer from hyperacid reflux and feel nausea.

It is best to give your cat small meals at regular intervals so that they don’t go on empty stomachs for long durations and also to make them set a fixed schedule. Fixed meal times also will make your cat less stressed out.

Should I leave food out for my cat at night?

If you have a fixed meal time fr your cat, then it doesn’t require a late-night meal. But in case your cat is a picky eater and misses its meals, then it is best to leave out a small quantity of dry cat food as a snack. Always prefer leaving out dry food over wet food as dry food can stay longer without going bad.

Dry food can change taste over long periods so ensure you do not waste food by leaving a large portion. Most cats are more than comfortable staying hungry and waiting for their breakfast meal the next day.

Always discard food that has been left out overnight and don’t try to feed it to your cat or mix it with freak food.

Can I leave wet cat food out overnight?

No, leaving wet cat food overnight is not a good idea as it can easily go bad after 4 hours. Disease-causing germs can quickly multiply in warm wet foods and can double every hour. This when ingested can be harmful and in some cases lethal for your cat’s health.

If you are worried your cat may be hungry at night, it is much safer to leave a small quantity of dry cat food that your cat can feed on.

Can cat food be refrigerated?

Dry cat food and wet cat food have different instructions to keep them from spoiling.

Dry cat food need not be refrigerated. Dry cat food has very little moisture in them and will last longer compared to wet cat food. There can be a marked change in dry cat food when left outside and your cat may simply refuse to eat it.

Wet can food is good till the can or the sealed pouch is not opened. Once opened, the remaining food should be refrigerated immediately to stop food from going bad.

If your wet cat food, comes in a can, simply cover the can with a plastic lid and place it in the refrigerator. If a lid isn’t available, transfer the remaining food into a zip-lock bag, remove excess air from the bag, seal it, and refrigerate.

When you need to feed your cat food from the refrigerator, warm the food slightly as cats do not like their food cold. You can simply place the bag under running hot water or hot water in a sink to warm it slightly or till it reaches room temperature. You can also put the food in a microwave-safe bowl, cover it and warm the food. Ensure you do not overheat the food

Can you warm up wet cat food?

Wet cat food that has been refrigerated or is cold due to the surrounding temperature should be warmed before giving it to your cat. Cats do not like cold food and may get stressed out if given cold food.

Put the wet cat food in a microwave bowl and warm it in the microwave. If the food is in a ziplock bag, you can warm it by placing it in hot water for a few minutes.

How does wet cat food get spoiled?

Wet cat food can get spoiled if kept open exposed to air. Food that has been lying unattended for a long period of time can be a breeding ground for a variety of bacterias that work on spoiling the food and making it dangerous if consumed.

Factors that can spoil cat food

The three major factors that contribute to wet cat food going bad are,

1. Exposure to air

Canned wet food for cats is sealed hygienically after pasteurizing the food. This ensures that there are no germs inside the can and food can remain safe.

Once opened, the food can be contaminated by bacteria from our environment. This coupled with the right conditions can help the germs to quickly multiply within minutes making the food toxic for your cat’s health.

Fungus spores from the environment can also thrive on the cat food but it takes a couple of days to show visible changes but bacterial contamination can happen with a very short period.

2. Temperature

You do not need to refrigerate unopened canned cat food. But as soon as the can is opened or the seal is broken, you should refrigerate unused food portions. Room temperature or warmer temperature is ideal for bacterias to multiply food. That is the reason warm good goes bad quickly.

3. Moisture

Moisture is another factor that can accelerate food going bad. Place where the atmospheric humidity is between 70% to 80%, food can go bad in 15 minutes or less. But if the humidity is low, like 25% to 30%, food can stay safe for up to an hour.

How to prevent cat food from spoilage?

Follow these tips to prevent your cat’s food from going bad quickly.

1. Feed only small portions

Most cats do not finish their meal completely. You know how much your cat eats in one sitting. The best option to avoid wastage of food is to serve only a limited quantity of food. Serve only a portion of the food at a time. This way you also regulate your cat’s food intake.

2. Refrigerate left over wet cat food

Once you have opened the can of cat food and taken the necessary portion, cover the remaining food with a plastic lid and refrigerate the can. By lowering the temperature or even freezing it, you prolong the shelf life of the opened food.

3. Use Ziploc bags

In case you do not have a lid to close the can, transfer the entire content of the can into a Ziploc bag, remove excess air from the bag and seal it. Keep the sealed bag in the refrigerator till you need to give your cat another meal.

4. Watch out for expiry dates

When buying canned cat foods, watch out for the expiry dates. If you are very close to the expiry dates, do not buy those cans. Chances are you may end up opening them after they have expired and there are high chances that they may have gone bad by then. Always ensure you have at least a couple of months in expiry date on your cans. And if you are buying in bulk, then buy cans with at least six months of expiry date on them.

Does unopened wet cat food need to be refrigerated?

No, unopened cans of wet cat food need not be refrigerated. Store them in a cool place, away from heat and direct sunlight and they should be good. Always read the storage instructions on the food cans.


Wet cat food can stay good for up to 4 hours in the open. Anything which has been left out for more than 4 hours should be promptly discarded.

Do not try to feed your cat wet food that has been left out in the open overnight. It would have become a breeding place for disease-causing germs.

Only serve small portions that your cat may finish in one sitting. Place the remaining food in a Ziploc bag or in the can with the lid securely closed and refrigerate it.

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