We recently switched our cat Beau and my mom’s cat Walker onto a full wet food diet because they kept developing Urinary Tract Infections. Most recently Beau had a Double Cystomy and PU Surgery to help clear his bladder from all of the crystals that had developed.
Due to the fact we had no problems with kibble before with cats before them, we never really tried supplemented either of their diets with wet food. This was especially true with our cat Beau who didn’t particularly like wet food. Surprisingly, every can of food we tried to feed him would be left untouched. Bau would take a few sniffs of wet food and then continue begging for food, although there was perfectly good food in front of him.
When switching over to feeding my cats wet food, I’ll admit I didn’t think too much about it. My vets were telling me that it was the only choice we had with Beau and that Walker would be better off being on an all wet food diet.
The main thing that I knew about being on an all wet food diet is that cats are less likely to become dehydrated, develop urinary tract infections and potentially can alleviate some other health problems. Though an all wet food diet can help with some health problems it does commonly lead to diabetes and because of all of the sugar in wet food there is a chance that cats will develop tartar and plaque more quickly.
Though, the burning question I personally had was: How long can I leave wet food out for?
I personally feed Beau a few times during the day. This gives him a routine, makes sure he doesn’t get stressed out and keeps the chances of him chewing on any fabrics or materials to a minimum. Beau also gets his food served to him in a series of feeder toys to help make sure that he doesn’t eat too fast, he often leaves a good amount of food in his feeder toy so he can snack on it later. Now, this is clearly not as possible with wet food.
Wet food is definitely a less convenient method of feeding. This is especially true for pet parents who aren’t home frequently or who have to feed their cats multiple times a day.
So, how long can you leave wet food out for? Can you leave it out for your cats to snack on it while you’re away? Can leaving wet food out make your cat sick?
SHORT ANSWER: HOW LONG CAN YOU LEAVE WET FOOD OUT FOR?
It’s commonly recommended that wet food is put into a sealed container, or that a can is sealed with a lid, within 20-30 minutes of it being out.
WHAT’S THE WORRY OF LEAVING WET FOOD OUT?
Well simply put, bacteria.
Basically, when wet food is open it begins to oxidize as it makes contact to air. Oxidization will help promote the growth of bacteria, which can cause a cat to become ill if left to cultivate.
Now, bacteria growth and cultivation is something that heavily depends on the ingredients in the food, the temperature the food was/is, and the temperature of the room.
On a less scientific level, wet food dries out fairly quickly making it unappetizing and quite frankly unedible after even an hour of being out.
My partner constantly complains that I don’t rinse out food bowls in our home before plopping them into the sink. Reason being? How dry the food has gotten and how difficult it’s going to be to scrape it off. I’m certain your cat isn’t a huge fan of eating that kind of food!
In our family, Beau averages about 1/4 of a can in one sitting. Even though we’ve tried to feed him more, Beau doesn’t seem to want any more than that at a time and will walk away from his food bowl, so we grabbed an awesome can lid to make sure that the food was kept safe while we store it in the fridge.
We got a silicone lid because they’re much easier to clean and dishwasher safe. We also noticed that the majority of plastic lids only cover 2 sizes of cans, however, the silicone ones usually manage three. We’ve had good experiences with both, so don’t worry too much about making “the right choice.”
It is recommended that you do not transfer foods into plastic containers or Tupperware. This is due to the fact that plastic has been known to cause cats to develop acne and other skin/dental conditions. So, if you’re ever thinking about storing your cat’s wet food out of their can I would recommend using a glass container.
Another option includes buying smaller cans of food to ensure that your cat eats the full can or pouch in one sitting. This, however, will increase the number of cans you throw out and you will be paying more overall for your cat’s food.
IS IT OKAY TO LEAVE DRY FOOD OUT?
The answer is yes, and no. It’s actually a pretty hot topic debate still.
It’s not that dry food will expire or make your little ones sick if left out for too long, it’s the fact that oxidization will also make the food lose nutrients.
At the end of the day, leaving dry food out isn’t as big of a concern as leaving wet food out. You would still want to take some proper precautions by ensuring that your kibble is in an airtight container if your food bag doesn’t have a zip-sealed or velcro top.
MY CAT WON’T EAT COLD FOOD THOUGH
Getting a cat to eat cold food is kind of difficult, but some of us have the same feeling when it comes to leftovers.
If you’ve got a cat who sticks their nose up when feeding cold wet food, throw it into the microwave for 10-15 seconds to warm it up. Not only will this make the food more appetizing to eat, but it will also make the food smell more, which will help stimulate a cat who is not feeling very hungry.
It is recommended that if you microwave food for your cat not to give them the food immediately as it may be too hot. Instead, leave the food to cool for a brief moment to allow it to cool down. You can always use a washed finger to see whether or not the food is too hot.
If you’re like us and aren’t big fans of microwaves you can use some warm water instead. I’m personally a bigger fan of this method as it also helps you improve your cat’s water intake, especially if they are not a big drinker, are prone to urinary tract infections, or have another condition that requires them to get extra fluids.
It is important that you do not boil the water you use for your cat, but instead make sure that it is just warm to the touch. This will ensure that your cat does not burn their tongue.
So while there are many factors such as temperature and ingredients that will vary the time it takes for your cat food to go bad, you’re still going to want to try to make sure that you only leave your cat’s wet food out for a maximum of 30-minutes.
This includes any food bowls that have little pieces of food left or grime on the rim. If these are not removed within 30-minutes, the chances that your cat is going to lick up dried cat food are extremely high.
Although this may not cause any immediate problems such as stomach upset, diarrhea or vomiting, grime and leftover food may cause longterm health problems if fed longterm.
Bacteria take time to cultivate and although we can’t see what it’s doing to our cat’s bodies you can bet that they are doing something!
If you’re hoping to leave some food out for your cat so they can be fed for the night I would recommend leaving out some kibble instead of wet food. Always make sure to wash any food bowls you use whether it’s for dry or wet and make sure to keep your cat safe!
So pet parents, I’m curious… how long do you usually leave your wet food out for? Let me know in the comments below.