Dry food for cats has been gaining in popularity over the decades when it comes to choosing a cat diet.
Dry cat food is not as healthy as canned cat food but many cat owners are still sticking to it out of convenience and affordability.
Assuming that you are still feeding your cat dry cat food, ensuring that it remains fresh and doesn’t go bad is important for your cat’s health.
Dry cat food can go bad in the heat, especially when exposed to high heat and left in the open for hours. Bacteria will start to grow on it and make it go bad. Dry food needs to be consumed within three months once the bag is opened.
In this article, we will be sharing what you can do to keep your dry cat food fresh. But importantly, suggest other types of diet which are safer and more nutritious for your cat.
How Long Can Dry Cat Food Last In The Bowl?
There are a couple of safety rules that you need to be aware of when leaving out dry cat food for your cat.
The reason why it is called dry cat food is that it’s devoid of moisture in its content. During the manufacturing process, the kibbles are dried in an industrial oven to remove all moisture.
This helps to preserve and prolong the ‘freshness’ of dry food but does not make dry food invincible to contamination though.
Even though you might have heard from other cat owners that it is fine to leave cat food out in the open for hours or even days but it isn’t.
There is a high risk of contamination if you do so.
Vegetable oil is mostly used in the manufacturing process and can turn rancid when exposed to heat. Moisture particles in the air can condense on the dry food and cause bacteria to grow and multiply.
Dry cat food tends to go stale after a few hours of being exposed to the environment. If you want to leave out some dry food for your cat, make sure it doesn’t go past 4-5 hours.
It also depends on the current weather that you are experiencing. If it is hot and humid, the shorter the period of air exposure, the better.
For cat owners who leave their cats alone at home while they work, I would strongly suggest that you get an automatic feeder that can dispense food at the pre-programmed time. This helps to keep the food fresh for your cat.
How Long Does Dry Cat Food Last Once Open?
As a rule of thumb, any opened bags of dry cat food should be consumed within 3 months at the very most.
The air that we breathe contains more than 1800 different types of bacteria and microbes. Some of these bacteria can be harmful to our cats when they start to contaminate the dry food.
Furthermore, once the dry kibbles come into contact with the air, the process of oxidation will start to happen.
Oxidization causes whatever mineral and vitamin contents in the dry food to degrade. It can also cause the oil in the dry food to go rancid. Once this happens, the whole bag needs to be thrown away.
How Long Does Unopened Dry Cat Food Last?
On top of removing all the moisture in cat food, preservatives and antioxidants are also added to prolong the shelf life of the product.
Pet food manufacturers will also stamp a ‘Best By’ date on the packaging to let consumers know that it is best to consume the entire bag by this date.
This doesn’t mean that you need to throw away all dry cat food that has gone past its ‘best by’ dates. But it should be a good indicator that beyond those dates, the contents might not be as fresh as before.
Almost all dry cat food packaging are vacuumed sealed to prevent air from seeping in. However, the seal will degrade over time and air will start to contaminate the contents.
How Do You Know If Dry Cat Food Is Bad?
There are a couple of ways to tell if you should throw away the entire bag of dry food.
How Does It Smell?
Dry cat food that has gone bad usually smells rancid due to the oxidization of the oil. It will have a sour and rotten smell which will be a good enough clue for you to throw the whole bag away.
How Does It Look?
If you plan to feed your cat dry food from a cat that has not been touched for a long time, take a good look at the contest to see if there is any mold growing on it.
Are the kibbles still hard or have they gone soft? Are there any bugs or creepy crawlies moving about inside?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, please throw the bag away.
When Is The Expiry Date?
Take a look at the ‘best by’ date to see how far you have already passed it. If the bag has yet to be opened, a few weeks after the ‘best by’ date is still acceptable but not ideal.
But if we are talking months or years after this date, I wouldn’t take the risk and feed it to my cat.
Does Your Cat Still Want To Eat It?
If you trying to feed your cat dry food that has been sitting around for a while but is still good, your cat’s willingness to eat it will determine if you should keep it or throw the bag away.
Cats are pretty good at avoiding food that has gone bad so let your feline friend be your food detector.
How To Store Dry Cat Food?
Always keep all opened and unopened bags of dry cat food in a cool and dark place. Avoid placing the bags under direct sunlight as the heat can cause the contents to go bad even faster.
I know of some community cat feeders that keep bags of cat food in their car trunks. This is definitely not recommended as the heat trapped in your hot car is really bad for dry cat food. And secondly, it can attract bugs and pests to your car in search of food.
It would be best to keep the kibbles in the original packaging instead of transferring them out to another container. If you wish to keep the dry food in an air-tight container, get one big enough that allows you to put the whole bag inside.
Pet food manufacturers design their food bags to keep the elements out.
When handling dry food, make sure that your hands and containers are absolutely dry. Any form of moisture can cause the contents to do bad.
As tempting as it might be to buy in bulk to save cost, just buy enough to last a few months and replenish when needed.
Why Dry Cat Food Isn’t Healthy For Cats?
Many pet owners think that feeding their cats dry food is a healthy option.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
One very bad thing about dry food is that it contains no moisture. Cats aren’t known to be good water drinkers and need more water in their diet.
Cats who don’t get enough water tend to develop chronic kidney diseases as they get older.
By giving your cat food that has no moisture in it, you are compounding the risk for your cat. Dry cat food also contains high levels of grain filler, sugar and low-quality products.
Not the kind of stuff that you want to be feeding your cat.
The next better option would be feeding canned food or wet cat food.
Wet cat food contains a lot more moisture and you can even add more water to the food for extra hydration.
The most natural and best diet in my opinion is the raw meat diet. It is the best way of providing nourishment for cats.
Cat Wet Food Go Bad In Heat?
If you are feeding your cat wet food at the moment, you need to be aware of how long the cat food has been left out.
Bacteria form very easily on wet food as compared to dry food due to the presence of moisture.
You can’t scoop a day’s worth of wet food for your cat and leave it there. You will be coming home to a kitchen full of ants and rotting cat food.
It is best to only leave wet cat food in the open for one to two hours max. If your cat is a slow eater, feed it in small batches so that you don’t end up wasting food.
Can canned cat food go bad as well?
Absolutely if it’s way past its ‘best before’ date or you have left an opened can in the fridge for too long.
Try and finish the entire can within 2-3 days.
Make it a point to feed fresh food to your cat. It is easy to overlook the expiration date or best before date in our busy schedule. You don’t want to be causing your cat an upset stomach by feeding it food that has already gone bad.
Plan your cat’s food quantity well and buy accordingly to prevent wastage.
Iggy Thorne, also known as ‘Iggy the Explorer,’ is a seasoned writer with a flair for adventure and a deep love for animals.
Not only does he craft captivating stories often set in the great outdoors, but he’s also a dedicated pet owner who has owned and fostered both dogs and cats.
His expertise in animal care extends to volunteering at local shelters, making him a credible voice in pet ownership.
With a unique blend of humor and adventure, Iggy’s writing is as engaging as it is informative.