- What Impacts the Shelf Life of Cat Food?
- How Long Does Opened Cat Food Last?
- How Long Can Cat Food Be Left Out?
- How to Properly Store Opened Dry Cat Food
- Is It OK to Leave Dry Cat Food Out All Day?
- Does Cat Food Need to Be Sealed or Airtight?
- In Conclusion
As a cat owner, ensuring your cat's food remains fresh and safe is an important responsibility. Cat food that has gone stale or been contaminated can make your cat sick, so proper storage is key. In this guide, we'll discuss the factors affecting cat food shelf life, how long cat food lasts once opened, how long you can leave cat food out, and the best ways to store cat food for maximum freshness.
What Impacts the Shelf Life of Cat Food?
Several factors determine how long cat food will last:
Type of Cat Food
- Dry cat food typically lasts 6-12 months from the "best by" date. The low moisture content inhibits bacterial growth.
- Wet cat food only lasts 3-5 days after opening. The high moisture content means it spoils quickly.
Ingredients and Preservatives
- Natural preservatives like tocopherols and rosemary extract help protect fats from oxidation, extending shelf life.
- Chemical preservatives such as BHA and BHT are very effective at preventing spoilage but may be undesirable to some cat owners.
- Fresh meat ingredients have a shorter shelf life than by-products and meal. Check the ingredients and buy products with a suitable best by date for you and your cat.
- Temperature - Warm temperatures speed up oxidation and spoilage. Cat food lasts longest when stored in a cool spot.
- Humidity - Moisture exposure leads to mold growth and spoilage. Cat food should be stored in an airtight container in a dry spot.
|Dry Food||Wet Food|
|Shelf Life Unopened||6-12 months||2-5 years|
|Shelf Life After Opening||4-6 weeks||3-5 days|
|Ideal Storage Location||Airtight container in a cool spot||Refrigerated in an airtight container|
How Long Does Opened Cat Food Last?
Once opened, cat food shelf life depends on:
Type of cat food: Opened wet cat food lasts 3-5 days refrigerated, while opened dry cat food lasts 4-6 weeks in an airtight container in a cool spot. After these times, vitamins and nutrients start to break down, and food can spoil.
Storage method: Storing opened cat food properly in an airtight container or sealed bag in the refrigerator or a cool, dry spot away from direct heat and sunlight helps maximize freshness.
Frequency of use: How quickly you use up the cat food also determines how long it lasts. Buying smaller bags or cans ensures each container is used up within a week or so, for the freshest food possible.
To maximize opened cat food shelf life:
- For wet food: Scoop out only enough for each meal, keep the rest refrigerated. Cover each can or container securely after each use.
- For dry food: Fold open bags over several times before sealing and remove excess air. Transfer to an airtight container if possible. Keep away from humidity and heat.
- For single-serve packets: Use immediately after opening and do not save leftovers. These packets exclude excess air to maximize freshness, but formed oils can spoil the food quickly after opening.
- Discard any cat food left out for over 4 hours or that shows signs of spoilage like mold, unpleasant odors, or change in color or texture. Freezing does not extend wet food shelf life and can impact food safety.
How Long Can Cat Food Be Left Out?
For dry cat food, 2 hours at room temperature is the maximum recommended time. Any longer and harmful bacteria like Salmonella can start growing rapidly and contaminate the food. Wet cat food should not be left unrefrigerated for more than 4 hours.
Leaving cat food out for too long exposes your cat to:
- Salmonella and E. coli contamination from spoiled ingredients like meat, eggs, and dairy. High temperatures allow rapid bacterial growth.
- Mold and mycotoxin growth in warm, humid environments. Ingesting moldy food can cause liver damage, immune issues, and other problems.
- Nutrient degradation as vitamins, fats, and other nutrients break down over time at room temperature. Your cat won't get the full nutritional value of the food.
- Illness from oxidation and rancid fats. Fats begin oxidizing quickly after a bag is opened, releasing substances that can cause diarrhea, gas, and other issues in cats.
The FDA recommends discarding any cat food left out for over 2 hours at room temperature (90°F or 32°C). For optimal safety, seal up opened cat food containers immediately after feeding and discard any leftover food not eaten within 30 minutes.
How to Properly Store Opened Dry Cat Food
Traditionally, opened dry cat food bags are folded closed and stored in a plastic container with a lid. However, this does not fully seal in freshness. The best options for storing opened dry cat food include:
Airtight containers: Place the entire opened bag into an airtight pet food container or bin with an interior sealed lid. Push out excess air before sealing. This creates an anaerobic environment to maximize shelf life. Popular airtight container options are Petlibro and IRIS airtight storage containers.
Automatic pet feeders: Automatic pet feeders like the Petlibro, with built-in airtight and sealed food tanks, create a controlled humid-free chamber for dispensing and storing cat food. The vacuum sealing system blocks air, moisture, bacteria, mold, and oxidation. Here are the main advantages of automatic pet feeders for food storage:
The Smart Vacuum-Sealed Food Tank automatically removes air to create a sealed space, keeping food nutritious and fresh.
Protects Against Harmful Pathogens: Due to the vacuum-sealing, every meal remains nutritious and safe from moisture, bacteria, mold, and oxidation.
Using an automatic pet feeder allows you to safely store larger amounts of cat food while keeping it fresh for your cat's next meal. Petlibro automatic pet feeders can hold up to 6 liters or 10 pounds of food at a time.
Is It OK to Leave Dry Cat Food Out All Day?
Leaving dry cat food out all day does offer some benefits in terms of free feeding for your cat. However, there are also significant downsides:
- Your cat can eat whenever they want, which some owners prefer for keeping cats at a healthy weight.
- Leaving food out may reduce begging behavior in some cats.
- Bacteria, mold, and oxidation can contaminate the food, especially in warm and humid weather. This poses health risks to your cat.
- Nutrients break down over time, reducing the nutritional value of the cat food.
- Pests like insects, rodents, and wild animals may be attracted to the constant access to food.
- Some cats will overeat when free fed, leading to obesity and other issues.
Using an automatic pet feeder helps address these concerns while still allowing free feeding. Here's how:
- The vacuum-sealed tank protects against contamination for up to 6 days of food storage. You only need to refill once a week, so food is always fresh.
- Programmable portion control allows you to schedule multiple small meals throughout the day to suit your cat's needs and prevent overeating.
- The tank and feeder base are made of chew-resistant materials, and the sealed lid prevents access by any pests.
- If your cat begs less with free feeding, the automatic portions dispensed by the feeder on schedule may further reduce this behavior, even when you're home.
So while free feeding dry cat food by leaving it out all day does have some benefits, an automatic pet feeder is a safer way to achieve these benefits and gain more control and freshness.
Does Cat Food Need to Be Sealed or Airtight?
In short, yes cat food should be stored in a sealed airtight container for the best quality and safety. Here's why:
- Exposure to air, heat, and humidity causes cat food to spoil more quickly. An airtight seal blocks out these environmental factors to maximize shelf life.
- Bacteria, molds, and pest infestation are prevented when cat food is properly sealed. Take a look from Petlibro automatic feeder for more anti-bacteria details.
- Oxidation of fats occurs rapidly when cat food is exposed to oxygen. Sealing in cat food prevents oxidation and production of harmful byproducts.
- Nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K and certain minerals will start to break down when exposed to air, light, and heat. An airtight seal maintains nutritional quality.
- Staleness sets in as cat food is exposed to oxygen over time. Sealing in freshness preserves taste, aroma, and texture.
For the health, safety, and nutrition of your cat, investing in a pet feeder or airtight containers that create an anaerobic environment for cat food storage is well worth it. Look for containers and pet feeders with features like:
- Vacuum sealing to remove air before sealing the container.
- Tight-fitting, chew-proof lids to completely seal and lock out humidity and oxygen.
- Ventilation systems to prevent excess moisture buildup while still blocking air exposure.
- Easy to clean, non-reactive materials that won't break down or leach into the cat food. Stainless steel, polypropylene plastic and silicone seals are good options.
- A solid, pest-proof design without cracks or holes where insects or other animals can access the food.
- Convenient yet inaccessible clips, locks or sealing mechanisms to keep clever cats out when you're not home.
An automatic pet feeder like the Petlibro addresses all these needs to provide superior airtight and sealed storage for dry cat food to keep it fresher longer. The vacuum sealing tank is innovative for at-home use and offers many benefits for cat health, food safety, and owner convenience.
To safely maximize the freshness and shelf life of your cat's food, use an automatic pet feeder or airtight storage containers. Proper sealing and refrigeration controls mean you can worry less about cat food going stale or being contaminated. Your cat will benefit from more frequent meals of recipes and toppers tailored to their nutritional needs and preferences.
Investing in a high-quality product like the Petlibro automatic pet feeder means always having the freshest, safest food ready for your cat on schedule. Why risk weeks' worth of contaminated food or tedious daily scooping when technology can handle it? Make your cat's mealtimes simple and keep them happy and healthy with an automatic pet feeder for effortless cat food storage done right.