Cat Food Storage: How to Store Cat Food

Dr. Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Martha G. Cline, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/13/20242-4 minutes
grey tabby cat looking into the camera

Like what you put on your own plate, you want to make sure the food that goes into your cat’s bowl is as safe and healthy as possible. Like the prepared foods you serve at your table, you check the ingredient labels of your cat’s formula.  

But while you probably pay close attention to ingredient lists and expiration dates for the foods you eat, you may not have asked, “Does cat food go bad?” Here’s some useful information about how to keep cat food fresh, and how to know when it’s ok to feed (or not to feed) it.  

Does Cat Food Expire?  

The “best by” date on your cat’s food is the date by which you should feed your cat’s unopened food to ensure that it’s not expired, so that you’re giving them the freshest, safest nutrition. You’ll find it displayed on all Purina pet food and treat labels, along with other important nutritional information and guidance on serving. 

All cat food packages should have a “best by“ or “best before” date somewhere on the label. To ensure the freshest food for your feline, search the store shelf and select the package with the date as far in the future as possible. Be cautious about packaging that may be compromised by damage such as dents or tears, because things such as unwanted air or moisture can contaminate the food, regardless of the expiration date.  

How Long Does Cat Food Last?  

The answer to this question involves a number of factors, including:  

  1. The type of cat food. Dry food, once opened, should be used within two-to-three months if properly stored, while wet food should be used within three days if sealed and refrigerated.  

  2. Whether the food has been opened. Once a cat food bag or can has been opened, the “best by” date is no longer a reference point. This date applies only to food in unopened packaging. 

  3. How the cat food is stored. Before opening, elements such as temperature can affect the nutritional quality of cat food. Store dry food and unopened wet food in a dry place where the temperature is below 80 degrees.

How to Store Cat Food 

After your cat’s food has been opened, proper storage is a major factor in determining how long dry cat food is good for, or how long wet cat is good for.

How to Store Dry Cat Food   

The bag that holds dry cat food is a well-researched package, carefully engineered to protect its contents from nutrient breakdown and contamination.  

Once the dry food bag is open, you can clip it to help keep out air and moisture. An even better storage solution is to place the clipped bag in an airtight container. Squeeze out any extra air before you securely clip your bag shut.  

Exposing dry cat food to air for a day or two won’t cause harm. But leaving a bag of cat food open over a period of months can cause it to become rancid or stale. Humidity can cause mold, and infestation by insects or rodents can also make your cat’s food unsafe to eat. All good reasons for airtight storage, in an area away from excess heat and moisture.  

If you choose to buy a larger “economy size” bag of food to save money, or if you have more food on hand than your cat can eat in a week or two, experts recommend storing your bag in an airtight container.

How to Store Wet Cat Food After Opening 

Unlike dry cat food, wet canned food, once opened, has to be used much more quickly. 

  • How long can you leave wet cat food out? Opened wet food will dry out in several hours. Therefore, any wet food left in your cat’s bowl for more than an hour should be picked up and tossed out. Any food left in the can should be covered and refrigerated right away. Be sure to seal the can (a plastic can lid works great for this) before refrigerating. Check the food to make sure it doesn’t dry out or develop mold.  

  • How long is canned cat food good for? If there is any food left in the can after three days, it should go from the refrigerator to the trash instead of in your cat’s bowl.

To Feed Your Cat Right, Store Your Cat Food Right  

You’ve put careful thought into the food you feed your cat. By also being smart about how you store the food you give them, you can be sure that your cat is getting the kind of quality meals you enjoy yourself… the quality meals you want for them. 

For more expert tips on feeding your cat, explore our other cat feeding articles.

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