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How long does wet cat food last?

Catt eating wet food

How long does wet cat food last? I really want to know because I eat wet cat food every night. I hate it when it gets cold and stale, so I always wolf down my meals as soon as mommy puts it out. The other day, I was at a friend’s house and I noticed some canned food laying around. Of course I tried to steal some. But then I looked at it and it was so disgusting I walked away.

The sight of that awful looking food got me thinking. How long does opened canned pet food remain safe?

The amount of time you can leave wet food out

Veterinarians and pet food manufacturers will tell you you should remove the cat’s food within a half hour of putting it out. That advice is great for cats like me who eat it all in one gulp, but some cats, like my late feline brother, eat slowly and like to savor every bite. Many felines like to eat a little and then come back later for more. That kind of eating isn’t great for wet cat food.

My friends at Purina recommend cat owners remove uneaten wet food after one hour. They say a cooler room will also buy you more time before bacteria sets in.

Of course, let’s be realistic. Most cat owners leave wet food out for the day with no harm to their cats. If you’re feeding a kitten, elderly or sick kitty, it’s best to serve wet food only when it’s fresh.

After the cat food has been out awhile, never keep it for the next day. Toss it! Got extra food still in the can? Cover it with a can cover and refrigerate it immediately. Leftover cat food in the refrigerator should be used within three days ideally, five days max.

How pet food spoils

Me being an investigative feline, I wanted to find out how wet cat food spoils. In my research and talking with veterinarian friends, I learned it happens when the food becomes contaminated with microorganisms that secrete toxins. These microscopic creatures are fungi (such as mildew) or bacteria. When you leave food out, bacteria and microscopic fungi are ready to make your food disgusting.

Bacteria is actually the main cause of spoiled food. Bacterial germs can multiply in just a few hours. The main risk of leaving out cat food is salmonella and listeria.

It’s important to know canned food is sterile until opened. The food is cooked in the can which is why it can last a really long time. Most brands also add preservatives – which can be natural substances or even certain types of vitamins.

Once you open the can, bacteria invades the food. In a home environment, these are relatively benign bacteria – rarely salmonella, listeria or E coli, but given enough time the food will eventually spoil.

Farley Waddlesworth and his Fancy Feast cat food

Teaming up with Purina to promote wet cat food

If you’re wondering why I’m talking a lot about cat food lately, it’s because I’m a kitty ambassador for Purina’s wet cat food campaign. Because I eat the wet stuff and eat their products, they thought I would be a good feline reporter to write about wet food issues. (If you’re wondering if it’s better to give your cat wet or dry food, you missed a lot of great information in my last blog post.)

The Purina folks gave me a lot of coupons to give away cases of Fancy Feast to you…my fabulous readers. There’s nothing I like better than giving away great food to great kitty moms and dads. To enter to win, please leave a comment below on how long you keep your kitty’s food out and subscribe below to get the latest dose of fine feline living.

I hope this post helps you humans make sure your cat’s food is always fresh and healthy. After all, a proper diet is what makes all of us fabulous on the inside and out!

Purina graciously provided free product for the giveaways. This post contains affiliate links for which I earn income if you click through and make a purchase.


  1. Rebecca Weseman

    My kitties wet food doesn’t get left out for long because I split a can between two or three of them each night and they quickly clean the plate! In rare occasions that they don’t, I get rid of the food after an hour or so.

    • Mary Tan

      Oh that is so awesome! Another reason to have more than one kitty! They just wolf down the wet stuff… very few cats I know dislike wet food. 🙂

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