Does leaving wet pet food at room temperature for 12+ hours pose a risk for your cat?

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

If you are currently reading this article, it means that you have left your wet pet food at the counter for more than 12 hours and are most probably wondering if you should throw it out or not.

Well, you are in luck, because you have found all the answers you have been looking for right here.

So does leaving wet pet food at room temperature for more than 12 hours pose a risk to your cat?

Whether leaving your cat’s wet food out for more than 12 hours be dangerous or not is a question that has a few answers to it with different time variations. While some cat owners say that they leave out their cat’s wet food for an entire day, there are some experts who say that the wet food can be kept at room temperatures for a time duration between 1 to 4 hours. Else it may become contaminated with germs and may pose risk for your cat’s health as well.

How long can the wet pet food be kept outside at room temperatures?

Do you leave your food out for long hours? Do you prefer to eat the food that has been sitting out at the shelf for a whole day? Would you rethink before heating up your food left at the counter last night and eating it again?

If you have answered all these questions with no and made a disgusted face, well, same is the case for your pet’s wet food. U.S. food safety and sanitation guidelines say that food exposed to temperatures of 40F to 140F (4 degrees Celsius to 60 degree Celsius) must not be consumed after a maximum of 4 hours. Such food may be contaminated and would not be suitable for consumption.

How does the wet pet food get spoiled?

Wet pet food is the easiest meal that one can serve its pets. It is not only easy but also preferred by most of the pets. This canned or wet pet food comes in a sealed tin pack and has a date mentioned on it with words like “best by” or “best before” etc.

This date is to make sure that food is not consumed after this date. One must make sure to keep an eye out for such dates to ensure that the food served to your beloved pets is healthy and nutritious.

Openness to air

Food inside the sealed cans remains safe for consuming if the seals remain intact. The seal protects the food inside the cans from getting contaminated by bacteria and germs found in our surroundings. As soon as the seal is broken the food is exposed to the germs and bacteria in the air and if given the right conditions, the bacteria takes minutes to multiply in the count and ruin the food, making it hazardous for health.

When we talk about the food getting polluted by germs in the air, we are trying to say that the food that has been exposed, it will not go bad instantly. But it will surely start to lose its nutritional value.

Your cats need a lot of vitamins and supplements that they cannot make themselves in their bodies and therefore are added separately to their food. The openness to air will cause those vitamins and minerals to break and not provide your cat with the nourishment it needs.

Unless the food is already rotten or has fungi type bacteria in it, food will not show any damage from the surface but it may still be infected because the germs and bacteria in our environment are enough to damage the food in a few hours.

Conditions and temperatures

Whether the food you are serving your cat is dry or wet, it is preferred that you keep it in cool temperatures. In-room temperature or warm temperatures there are more chances of food to get contaminated by germs and bacteria. Since food is already wet and there is humidity in the environment, the food getting unhealthy is pretty much predictable.

Hot temperatures

Bacteria and bugs that are hazardous to health such as salmonella can pollute the wet pet food and multiply within a few hours if the temperature in the house is between 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures are easily found in a house during hot days. Therefore it is advised that the food should not be stored in garages but inside the house or in the pantry.

Cold temperatures

Although it is said that wet and dry both kinds of pet food should be kept in cold temperatures, it does not mean that the food will not be getting invaded by germs and bacteria. It will still be getting infected but at lower speed.

How would you know if the food is rotten?

Sometimes the food that has started to rotten does not show from the appearance. The first sign that says food is not healthy to be consumed any more will be that your pet would not be eating the food. They would move away from the dish. Other than that, the smell and even the change in colour and texture would say that the food has become hazardous for consumption and therefore must be thrown out or else your pet may get severely ill.

How to preserve canned/wet pet food?

Usually, wet food comes in a tin can. A can has enough food to be used for more than one serving. Instead of offering your cat an entire can at once, you should serve your cat with a half can or maybe just about two to three tablespoons at a time. This will allow your cat to finish the meal offered.

You can put your pet’s food in an airtight container or just put the lid back on and refrigerate it. This will protect your food from getting invaded by the germs and bacteria. A lot of pets prefer to eat warm food and would not eat if the food is served cold from the fridge. Therefore, it will be a good idea to warm up the food in the microwave for a maximum of 30 minutes and then serve it.

In order to avoid any kind of unhealthy food to your pet, it is advised that you remove it as soon as your pet has finished eating. If your cat is one of those pets who like to eat a few bites and then keep on returning to take more bites, make sure that the food is not exposed to air to prevent it from going bad.

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What if the cat eats the food that has been out for long hours?

Since the food has been sitting out for long hours, there is a high probability of food going bad. If the food is not removed as soon as your pet finishes and is left out, the cat may roam around and take a few bites. This will cause the cat to suffer from food poisoning, projectile vomiting and even diarrhoea. This will not be the case if the cat eats just a few bites of the food sitting out for long.

Other types of cat food and how fast can they get spoiled

When it comes to pets there are multiple kinds of food that you can offer to them; homemade, raw, canned, or dry etc. All types of food are different from each other and therefore go bad at their own times and temperatures.

Right now, we will discuss the kinds of food you can offer your cat and how quickly can they be spoiled:

Dry cat food

Dry cat food is cooked for long hours at high temperatures. It is constantly checked by the manufacturers and the FDA to ensure that there is no bacteria or germs in it. In case of any unwanted guests in the cat food, it is immediately called back by the producers.

The cat food is dry and that is why there are little chances of them getting invaded. Dry cat food can be kept outside at room temperatures and no harm will be done. This is because the food is dry and there is no moisture that can become a cause for the germs to come.

Not saying that you should keep the food out for long hours because there may be some germs invading and breaking the nutritional value, but they would not be able to multiply at a faster rate because of no moisture in the food.

The cat food should be thrown away as soon as they are done eating and the tray should be cleaned to keep your little furry friend happy and healthy.

Homemade cooked food

You can always serve your cat with homemade food that has been cooked thoroughly at high temperatures. You can give your cat cooked chunks of chicken, liver etc. As long as the food is cooked properly and refrigerated, it will be closer towards the canned or wet pet food.

The leftovers should be removed as soon as possible to avoid any kind of problems. A thumb rule to remember for cat food is that the bigger the pieces of food and the higher temperatures they are cooked for and the drier they are, it can be kept outside for long hours. In case you still have questions about how long you can leave the food outside, make sure to consult your trusted vet.

Raw food

Raw food is the quickest to get the invaded by bacteria. Even if you freeze the food, there will still be bacteria in it and the ones that have already made there way inside will stay there even after it is frozen.

It is advised to not offer raw food to your cat even if it has been left out for 40 minutes because there will be an invasion of germs and they will definitely multiply given the room conditions and the moisture in the environment.

Will the food taste same after it has been left outside?

Chances are that the food would change in taste, even though it has been kept outside for a limited time frame. The dry food will get sour if left out for a day or two and the wet food will start to dry up. Even if it is safe to consume, the taste will change.

Since cats are the kind of pets that like to eat fresh food every time, chances are that they will not eat the food if it does not taste as good as fresh food they are used to eating.

Related questions

Is canned tuna good for cats?

Although fish is a good source of protein for your cats, you should not serve it tuna very often. It can be offered as a treat every now and then but not consistently. Giving a lot of tuna to your cat may pose some risks to its health.

Why don’t cats finish their food?

Cats do not finish their food because they have sensitive whiskers, and when putting their mouth in the dish, their whiskers get hurt. It is advised to buy them large open and a shallow bowl so they can finish up the food properly.

How long can you keep an opened canned food in the refrigerator?

Opened cat food should be kept in the refrigerators at temperatures between 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit, for a maximum of 5-7 days. After this, the food must be thrown away.

Should I leave food out for my cat at night?

Yes, you can leave food outside for your cat at night but make sure that it is dry cat food otherwise it may get contaminated.

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