How Long Can Wet Cat Food Sit Out? Know The Risk Factors

Most cats prefer to eat in small portions. As a result, there remain a lot of leftovers. But how long can wet cat food sit out? 

According to the FDA, you can keep the wet foods out for 2 hours. After 2 hours, the risk of disease-causing bacteria attack develops. When it has been a while since the wet food is out, you need to throw the food away and clean the bowl.

It takes only 2 hours for the wet cat food to start to get contaminated. And when it’s out for 4 hours, you must throw it away. There are some insights that we have gathered about keeping your cat’s food out. Let’s see what we got! 

RELATED: My Cat Doesn’t Drink Water But Eats Wet Food

How Long Can Wet Cat Food Sit Out?


Your wet cat food can sit out in the weather for a maximum of 2 hours. After that, the food starts to get contaminated. Once it turns four hours, the food already becomes contaminated by bacteria attack so you need to throw it out by then.

When you need to keep the food longer than 2 hours, you need to refrigerate it and then reheat it before giving it to your cat. However, if you fail to do so, it’s best to throw the food away and prevent your cat from consuming spoiled or contaminated food.

How Long Can You Leave Dry Cat Food Out?

Wet cat food is more prone to spoilage than dry food. So, you can leave dry cat food out for up to a day without the risk of contamination. But if the weather is not top-notch, the timing may vary. A humid or warm environment will degrade the food soon. 

How Long Can You Safely Leave Cat Food Out For?

Different cat foods can be out for different periods. Here is a brief that might help you:

Dry cat food

Dry cat food can be left out for up to 24 hours. But you need to consider the environment in this case. Besides, maintaining freshness should always be a priority.  

Wet cat food

how long can wet cat food stay out

Wet cat food starts to get contaminated in only 2 hours. So, once it has passed the two-hours window, you shouldn’t feed that to your cat anymore. Any leftover wet food should be refrigerated instantly and discarded within 2-3 days.

Semi-moist cat food

Semi-moist cat food has a similar tendency to wet cat food. So you cannot keep that out for more than 2 hours without refrigerating it. 

Raw cat food

Raw cat food also tends to get contaminated quickly. It’s better not to keep the food out for more than 2 hours. 

How To Keep The Leftover Cat Food Fresh? 

Cats tend to eat in smaller portions. So, if your cat doesn’t eat the whole food at a time, you can’t complain. However, if you leave the food out for long, it may get contaminated creating serious issues if your cat consumes it again. 

Whether it’s wet, dry, or canned cat food, if left out for longer periods, they get more prone to contamination. Besides, the quality may spoil over time, particularly in humid or warm conditions.

how to keep the leftover cat food fresh

Here are a few things that you can do: 

  • Refrigerate promptly: If your cat doesn’t finish their meal, keep the leftovers in your refrigerator. As a result, the food won’t be contaminated by bacteria attacks. However, you can’t keep the food in the refrigerator for more than 2 days. Also, if you give the food again, make sure to warm it. 
  • Reheat properly: If you are serving the spare food again, you need to heat it up before you serve it. Cats don’t like eating cold food. So, you need to use your microwave to keep the food warm. Make sure not to overheat it as it may destroy the nutrients and flavor of the food.
  • Feed in small portions: When your cat has a tendency to eat small amounts of food at a time, it’s better to give food in smaller portions. This way, there will be fewer leftovers to deal with. 
  • Use a clean utensil: Utensils may carry bacteria or germs that attack the food when served. So, make sure that you have cleaned the utensils properly before you serve the leftover food. 
  • Cover the food: Covering the food is a good idea when your cat leaves a little portion untouched. However, it works best for dry foods because covered wet foods may be even more prone to contamination. 
  • Store properly: You can keep your leftover dry food in the package again. Store it in sealed bags of dry cat food in a cool, dry place. You can also keep the dry food in an airtight container to prevent exposure to moisture, air, or pests. 

Should I Leave Food Out For My Cat At Night?

Whether or not to leave food out for your cat at night depends on a few factors and your cat’s eating habits. When your cat likes to have food throughout the day, leaving food out at night may not be a problem. But if s/he has a specific meal time, you don’t need to leave the food out at night.

Leaving food out at night can attract pests like insects or rodents. Also, wet cat food may get rotten after 2 hours. You might put your cat’s health at potential risk if you don’t keep this in mind. 

However, if you still need to keep your cat’s food out there at night, make sure that you are providing dry food and that the environment is favorable to keep everything healthy. 

What Should I Do With Leftover Wet Cat Food? 

Cat foods cost a fortune if you care about money. So, wasting is never an option. Therefore, here are a few things that may save you:

Refrigerate it

When the cat food is open for less than 2 hours, you can easily keep it in your refrigerator to feed it later. Keep the food in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. But don’t keep the food for more than 2 days as it will get spoiled. 

Freeze it

Wet cat foods can be frozen as well. After freezing the food, you can keep it content for up to 2-3 months. 

Mix it with dry food

This is a good idea when you have a small portion of wet cat food left. But before mixing, you need to make sure that the food is not contaminated. 

Throw it away

If the leftover wet cat food has been left out for more than 2 hours, you can’t feed that to your cat anymore. Throw it away and clean the utensils to protect your cat from contamination. 

Does Cat Food Need To Be Refrigerated?

Depending on the type of food, your cat food might need to be refrigerated. Usually, dry and unopened cat foods don’t need refrigerating as they remain good if you store them in a cool, dry place. However, after opening the container, you can keep those in your freezer. 

But in the case of wet food, you need to preserve those in your refrigerator after opening. Even leftover wet cat foods should be kept in the fridge to avoid contamination. 

What Happens If Cat Has Contaminated Food?

A study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that cats who consumed contaminated food were more likely to develop urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal problems, and other health issues. Such as: 

  • Vomiting and diarrhea: The first thing that most cats face after having contaminated food is vomiting and diarrhea due to their upset stomach. 
  • Lethargy: Having contaminated food will make your cat less active and s/he may not show playful behaviors.
  • Lack of appetite: After eating the contaminated food, your cat may refuse to eat for a long period. This is because of the lack of appetite that’s caused by the contamination.
  • Infections: The urinary tract, respiratory system, or other parts of your cat’s body may get infected due to bacterial contamination. Sometimes, this may lead to serious consequences if not treated on time. 

Explore More On This (FAQs):

1. Can wet cat food go bad?

Yes, if you leave your wet cat food open in the air for more than 2 hours, it will get contaminated and spoiled. However, dry cat foods remain good for a day if left open in the environment.

2. How do I store leftover wet cat food?

You need to keep the leftovers in your refrigerator in an airtight container. Also, make sure to feed them within 2 days. Before feeding the refrigerated cat food, warm it up properly. 

3. Do I need to reheat wet cat food?

Yes, if you have kept your wet cat food in the refrigerator, you must reheat it before you serve it to your cat. Reheating will kill any bacteria or germs and the food will remain good to eat. 

4. Should I leave cat food out all day?

No, you can’t leave your cat food out all day due to the risk of bacterial contamination. Wet cat foods get contaminated by bacteria attacks after 2 hours. Within 4 hours, the food will be completely spoiled. 

Also Read: How Much Fancy Feast To Feed Cat


Knowing how long can wet cat food sit out will prevent your cat from having contaminated food and facing unwanted diseases. Feeding spoiled wet food can have a negative impact on your kitty’s health. So, always remember to keep the food fresh and contamination-free. 

Share on:

Hello, this is Frank Swanson, the owner, and operator of Pet Info Hut. I created this website as a way to share my love of pets with the world. I have over 7 years of experience working with animals, and I have a passion for helping people care for their pets. I hope that you find my website useful and informative. Thanks for visiting!

Leave a Comment