Canned cat food can go bad if it is exposed to high temperatures or stored for too long. Knowing the proper way to store and handle canned cat food can help prevent it from spoiling before the expiration date.
How to tell if canned cat food has gone bad
There are a few clear signs that indicate canned cat food has spoiled and is no longer safe to feed your cat:
- The can is dented, swollen, or leaking
- The food has an unusual odor, texture, or appearance
- There is mold growing on the surface of the food
- The food has changed color or become darker and more dull
- The canned cat food is past its expiration date
If you notice any of these signs when inspecting a can of cat food, it’s best to throw it out and not risk feeding it to your pet. Consuming spoiled canned food can make cats sick.
At what temperature does canned cat food spoil?
Canned cat food can start to spoil at temperatures above 40°F (4°C). The higher the temperature it is exposed to, the quicker the food will deteriorate. Here are some general guidelines on canned cat food storage temperatures:
- Below 75°F (24°C) – Canned food should remain fresh for a long time if stored properly. Try to keep canned cat food below this temperature.
- 75-90°F (24-32°C) – Food quality starts to degrade faster but canned cat food is generally still ok for consumption if not kept here too long.
- Above 90°F (32°C) – Canned cat food spoils rapidly at this temperature. Try not to store canned food above 90°F.
As a rule of thumb, the cooler you can keep canned cat food while in storage, the better. Refrigerating unused cans after opening is recommended. Canned food that has been exposed to temperatures above 90°F for over 2 hours should be thrown out.
Factors that influence canned cat food spoilage
There are a few key factors that determine how quickly canned cat food will spoil at higher temperatures:
- Ingredients – Food with higher fat and moisture content tends to spoil faster.
- Packaging – Damage to the can’s seal or integrity speeds up spoilage.
- Storage time – The longer canned food sits on the shelf, the shorter its remaining shelf life.
- Temperature fluctuations – Frequent changes in temperature hasten food deterioration.
Keeping canned cat food stored in a cool, dry place helps counteract these factors and maintains quality for longer.
How to store canned cat food properly
Follow these tips to help keep canned cat food fresh for as long as possible:
- Check the expiration or “best by” date on the can before purchasing.
- Avoid buying cans with dents, damage, or signs of leakage.
- Keep unopened cans in a cool, dry place below 75°F (24°C).
- Don’t store canned food in hot places like garages or near appliances.
- Refrigerate opened cans and use within 2-3 days.
- Transfer contents of opened cans to airtight containers for fridge storage.
- Always spoon out portions instead of leaving a spoon in the can.
- Never store open cans longer than 7 days even when refrigerated.
- Discard any cans that have been exposed to temperatures over 90°F for over 2 hours.
Identifying spoiled canned cat food
Be on the lookout for these common signs that indicate canned cat food has spoiled and should be thrown away:
- Discoloration or unnatural colors
- Mold growth
- Separation or coagulation
- Unnatural viscosity or texture
- Sour, rotten odor
- Very fishy smell
- Generally unpleasant
- Bulging or leaking can
- Severe dents
- Damage to seals
- Expired best by date
- Open for more than 3 days refrigerated
- Open for more than 7 days at room temperature
Never taste cat food yourself to determine if it has spoiled. The signs above are the safest ways to identify canned cat food that has gone bad.
Can spoiled canned cat food make cats sick?
Yes, feeding spoiled canned cat food can potentially make cats very ill. The bacteria that causes the food to spoil can lead to food poisoning when ingested. Symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
Severe cases of food poisoning from rotten canned cat food can even be life-threatening. Seek veterinary care immediately if your cat becomes ill after eating spoiled food.
To avoid serious health risks, it’s critical to inspect canned cat food for any signs of spoilage and never feed cat food that has gone bad. When in doubt, throw it out.
How long can canned cat food be left out?
Once opened, canned cat food should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Bacteria starts multiplying quickly in the “danger zone” between 40-140°F.
Here are some tips on proper canned cat food handling once opened:
- Refrigerate unused portion immediately.
- Never leave opened cans out more than 2 hours.
- Discard any leftover wet food after 3-5 days in the fridge.
- Never mix fresh food with old when refilling your cat’s bowl.
- Throw away any uneaten fresh food after 24 hours.
- Wipe the rim of the can before sealing and storing.
With opened canned food, the priority is minimizing the time it spends in the danger zone to prevent bacterial growth. Refrigeration and proper handling are key to keeping your cat’s food fresh.
Can you re-freeze thawed canned cat food?
It’s not recommended to re-freeze canned cat food once it has been thawed and refrigerated. The twice frozen food is at very high risk of bacterial contamination.
However, if canned cat food was thawed accidentally or only for a short time, follow these precautions:
- Check food was never warmer than 40°F when thawed.
- Make sure it was thawed for less than 12 hours.
- Check for off odors or other signs of spoilage.
- Re-freeze immediately and use within 24 hours.
- Never re-thaw and re-freeze more than once.
Ideally, canned cat food should be kept frozen continuously or thawed only once when ready to use. Refreezing thawed canned food significantly reduces the time it stays fresh and safe.
Can thawed canned cat food be refrigerated?
Yes, thawed canned cat food can safely be refrigerated and stored for later use. Follow these guidelines when refrigerating thawed canned cat food:
- Refrigerate immediately after thawing.
- Keep refrigerated at 40°F or below.
- Use opened canned food within 3-5 days.
- Discard if you see any signs of spoilage.
- Don’t mix fresh canned food with refrigerated thawed food.
Proper refrigeration temperature is very important – higher fridge temperatures allow faster bacteria growth. Keep your fridge below 40°F and monitor the cat food for any spoilage signs.
What temperature should canned cat food be stored?
Canned cat food will maintain optimal freshness and quality when stored at these ideal temperatures:
Unopened shelf-stable cans
- Pantry or cupboard – Below 75°F (24°C)
- Cool basement – Around 60-65°F (15-18°C)
Refrigerating unopened cans
- Refrigerator – Below 40°F (4°C)
- Freezer – 0°F (-18°C) or below
Opened canned cat food
- Refrigerator – Below 40°F (4°C)
- Only for 3-5 days maximum
Avoid storing canned cat food above 75°F whenever possible. Refrigeration gives the longest storage life once cans are opened. Keeping canned food below 40°F prevents premature spoilage.
How long can canned cat food be refrigerated after opening?
After opening the can, canned cat food will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-5 days if stored properly. Here are some fridge storage guidelines for opened canned cat food:
- Refrigerate remaining food immediately after serving.
- Use an airtight container, not the can.
- Ensure fridge remains below 40°F.
- Never mix old and new food when refilling bowl.
- Discard after 3 days (5 max).
- Never leave refrigerated for over 7 days.
Monitor the canned food each day for any signs of spoilage like odor, texture, or color changes. Throw out any leftover canned cat food that shows deterioration or is past the 3-5 day timeline, even if refrigerated.
Does freezing extend canned cat food shelf life?
Freezing unopened canned cat food can extend its shelf life significantly. By keeping cans frozen, you can prolong the shelf life beyond the “best by” date stamped on the can. Here are the benefits of freezing cat food:
- Extends shelf life by over a year in most cases.
- Keeps food fresh by stopping deterioration.
- Allows stocking up and buying in bulk.
- Lets you keep backup food for emergencies.
- Prevents waste from expired uneaten cans.
For best results, freeze cans as soon as possible after purchasing. Thaw frozen cans overnight in the fridge before serving to your cat. Freezing lets you safely store cans for prolonged periods without wasting cat food.
How to freeze canned cat food
Follow these simple steps to successfully freeze canned cat food:
- Check “best by” date and freeze well before expires.
- Inspect cans for damage or swelling before freezing.
- Place cans in freezer bags or airtight containers.
- Remove as much air from bags or containers as possible.
- Freeze immediately at 0°F or below.
- Label with name and date frozen.
- Store for up to 1 year frozen.
- Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before use.
Freezing prevents the nutrients in cat food from breaking down over time. Cans may last over a year frozen without losing quality or spoiling.
To maximize the safety and shelf life of canned cat food, it’s important to store and handle it properly. Keep cans below 75°F before opening. Refrigerate opened canned food and use within 3-5 days. Discard immediately if you see any signs of spoilage. Freezing lets you safely store unopened cans for extended periods.
By following proper temperature storage, monitoring for spoilage, and freezing unopened cans, you can reduce canned cat food waste and ensure your cat gets the highest quality nutrition from their mealtime.