How to Keep Your Cat’s Food Fresh

Jennifer Coates, DVM
By Jennifer Coates, DVM on Feb. 19, 2016

You’ve researched your cat’s nutritional needs, compared brands, and purchased the best option for your favorite feline. Now the question arises: “What is the best way to store the food to keep it fresh and wholesome for as long as possible?”

First, let’s take a step back. All cat foods should have a “best by” or “best before” date printed somewhere on the bag or can. Whenever possible, purchase bags or cans with dates that are as far in the future as possible. When you do this, you are buying the freshest food on the shelf. Keep in mind that these dates are not infallible, however. Food doesn’t expire the day after its “best by” date, and if the packaging has been compromised the food may go bad much sooner.

Examine packaging before you make a purchase to check that bags are intact and cans aren’t bulging or leaking. When you get home, use some common sense. If you open a bag or can and the food looks or smells “off” or your cat is reluctant to eat it, stop feeding from that package immediately. Reputable pet food manufacturers will stand by their products and offer a money back guarantee.

Storing Dry Cat Food

How you handle food once you have it at home can make a big difference in how long it remains fresh and maintains its ideal nutritional profile. Exposure to air, light, hot temperatures, and humidity speeds up the rate at which foods degrade. To limit these effects, keep dry foods in their original packaging. High-quality cat food bags have been designed to keep out the elements. Open the bag carefully so you can roll and hold the top closed with a clip or otherwise reseal the package in between uses.

Plastic, glass, or metal bins can also help protect cat food from the elements and from insects, rodents, and other vermin, but owners should place the food inside the container in its original bag rather than pouring the kibble in directly. Store the bag or container off of the floor in a cool and dry location.

Ideally, dry food should be consumed within six weeks of opening the bag, so pick your bag sizes appropriately. Kibble can be left out in bowls for a day or so, but don’t offer more than should be consumed in 24 hours. Larger meals limit your ability to monitor your cat’s appetite and put pets at risk for overeating and obesity. Wash bowls used for dry food at least once a week in hot, soapy water.

Storing Canned Cat Food

An unopened can of cat food can remain fresh for years when stored in a cool and dry location, but only buy the number of cans that can be used before they reach their “best by” dates. Once opened, canned food should be stored in the refrigerator for no longer than seven days. If you do not think you will use the whole can in that amount of time, freeze single-serve portions and thaw them on an as-needed basis.

Canned food that has been opened and left at room temperature should be discarded after four hours. Clean the bowl prior to refilling it.

You’ve spent good money on your cat’s food. Don’t let improper storage sabotage your cat’s health and well-being.

Jennifer Coates, DVM


Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary...

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