How Long Can Raw Cat Food Be Left Out? (From Fresh To Foul)

how long can we leave out raw meat for cats

When I first started feeding my cat raw food, the one thing that I was most concerned about was possible contamination from leaving it out in the open.

Thankfully my cat has always been intuitive enough to know when not to touch food that has gone bad. However, that doesn’t mean that you should leave it up to your cat to make the call.

They don’t always get it right.

How long can raw cat food be left out?

It would be best to not let raw food sit out for more than two hours. This can be more or less depending on the temperature and humidity of the day. Contamination is most likely to occur when there’s moisture and heat present. If the raw food has been sitting out for too long, make sure to dispose of the remainder before your cat eats it. 

In this article, we will take a closer look at the best practices when leaving out raw food and how to keep it fresh for your cat.

Can Cat Food Go Bad When Left Out?

Regardless of what you feed your cat, the food will always start to go bad and stale if it has been sitting out in the open for too long.

There are other varying factors at play too such as room humidity and temperature.

I am a big believer that prevention is better than cure so it’s better to ensure that your cat’s meal is fresh enough to prevent any food poisoning.

Especially when you are feeding your cat raw meat.

How Long Can Raw Cat Food Sit Out?

The FDA suggests not leaving raw food out in the open for more than 2 hours. But if the weather is hot and humid then it would be about an hour.

This applies to all the different raw meats that you are feeding your cat.

These are good guidelines to follow when it comes to leaving raw meat out in the open for your cat.

Most cats should be able to finish their food within this time frame.

The more experienced you get with feeding your cat raw meat, you will get a good feel on how long its best to leave the food out based on the current weather.

How To Identify Food That Has Gone Bad?

It might not always be possible to know if your cat’s food has gone bad just by eyeballing it.

So we need to employ the following test of touch, smell and some common sense.

The best and easiest way to tell if your cat’s food has gone bad is the smell.

If it smells bad, do not feed it to your cat.

Bacteria can also change the texture of the food by turning it mushy, slimy or moldy. There can also be a change in the color of the food to a greenish hue.

Last but not least, if your sixth sense tells you that the food has gone bad even when it looks and feels fine, don’t second guess your gut instincts.

Health Risks From Eating Spoilt Food

There is a risk of your cat falling sick if it has eaten raw food that has gone bad. It is similar to what will happen if you have food poisoning.

Symptoms can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Stomach pain

In most cases, your cat will be ok in a day or two. But more if your cat’s symptoms don’t show any signs of improvement, you need to take it to the vet for treatment.

There’s a high chance that it requires some antibiotics to get its digestive system back on track.

Even though you should strive to keep your cat’s raw food as fresh as possible, there’s no need to push the panic button if it has been left out for a while.

Your cat has a digestive system that is strong enough to handle food that isn’t too fresh.

This is due to having stronger stomach acid and a shorter digestive tract.

If you are still new to feeding a raw diet, you can check out our ultimate guide for all the important dos and dont’s.

The Eating Habits Of Cats

Our cats have their own personalities and eating habits. Some eat like their food is going out of style tomorrow while others take forever to finish their meal.

My cat is definitely the latter.

He eats slower than someone who is 100 years old.

After nibbling at the food, he might spend some time grooming themselves, using the toilet or even taking a short nap.

If your cat has a similar eating habit as mine, it can take some time for them to finish up the entire serving.

This can make feeding raw food to cats somewhat tricky as we don’t want to leave raw food out in the open for long.

How Can I Keep My Cat’s Food Fresh?

All is not lost if your cat is a grazer. There are a couple of ways that can help to keep your cat’s raw food as fresh as possible.

1. Feed Smaller Portions Of Raw Food

This first method is good for cats that are nibblers and grazers.

Once you know how much food your cat needs per meal, it would be a good idea to divide it up into smaller portions to maintain freshness.

When your cat is done with that first portion and has walked away, remember to give the food bowl a good rinse and not leave raw meat just sitting out in the open.

When your cat is ready for more raw food, rinse and repeat the above step until it is full and ready for a long and comfy nap.

I know it can be a tedious process but it helps keep the cat food as fresh as possible.

2. Use Ice or An Ice Pack

ice cubes

You can feed your cat the full portion but put the food bowl onto a larger plate that has some ice cubes or ice packs on it.

This helps to keep the raw food fresh and cool which helps to delay the onset of bacteria or contamination at room temperature.

Your cat shouldn’t have too much of an issue eating raw food that is slightly colder than usual.

Feed The Raw Meat Cold

Using an ice pack or ice can help keep the food cool but if the weather is warmer than usual, contamination can set in rather quickly.

What I do at times when I need to leave a few hours before my cat’s feeding time, is to feed frozen raw food.

I usually pack my cat’s raw food into separate servings so that makes it easy for me to leave out one serving to slowly thaw.

Once it is time for my cat to eat, his food will be thawed and still fresh for consumption.

How Do I Store Raw Cat Food?

Any raw cat food that isn’t being used needs to be kept frozen. This will prevent bacteria and other nasty microorganisms from settling on the surface and causing contamination.

Keeping the raw meat in the fridge just before feeding can also help keep the raw cat food fresher for longer.

Only thaw what is required.

Even though frozen meat can last indefinitely, you don’t want to turn your cat’s raw food into mystery meat that has been sitting in the freezer for years.

The taste and smell of the meat might not be yummy to your cat.

At least aim to clear out the remainder within a few months or a year max.

How Long Can Raw Cat Food Stay In The Fridge?

Keeping your cat’s raw food in the fridge doesn’t mean that it can last for a long time.

It is better to pack each serving size in separate containers and let it thaw in the fridge before feeding your cat.

If there’s excess food, you can keep it sitting in the fridge for not more than 5 days before it starts to get stale.

So plan your cat’s serving portions properly to prevent wastage.

How To Transition Your Cat To A Raw Diet?

If you are looking to transition your cat to a raw diet, that is a good start.

The most important thing to note when changing your cat’s diet is to do it slowly and have a lot of patience.

Many cats are very fussy and are not fans of change but it can be done.

The best way to transition your cat to a raw meat diet is to slowly add some raw food to its current food on a daily basis.

Gradually increase the amount until your cat is happily eating raw meat like nature intended.


How Long Can Wet Cat Food Sit Out?

Although we advocate raw feeding, good-quality canned or wet cat food is the next best alternative for your cat.

Unopened wet food should be stored in a dry and cool place. Once opened, it should be kept in an airtight container and kept in the fridge.

The rule of thumb is also 1-2 hours, depending on the weather. It’s best to not leave wet cat food out in the open beyond this point.

Canned food contains a good amount of moisture which can be a conducive breeding ground for bacteria.

If the wet food starts to get dry after being out in the open, you add mix in some warm water or bone broth to make it more palatable for your cat.

How Long Can Dry Cat Food Be Left Out?

cat not eating

The good thing about dry food is that it doesn’t spoil easily due to the lack of moisture content.

Some cat owners tend to pour a whole day’s serving in the bowl if they will be out for many hours.

It is rare that dry cat food can get contaminated but it is possible. Even though cats have a great sense of smell, they might not realize that it has gone bad and ingest it.

This can cause your cat to fall ill and a visit to the vet is required.

If you really do need to feed your cat dry food, use an airtight automated feeder to keep it fresh.

The bad thing is dry food is bad for your cat as it lacks the proper nutrients. and moisture.

Do note that dry food can also go bad in the heat so do not leave it out in the open for hours.

Cats aren’t regular water drinkers and the lack of water in their dry cat food makes can cause kidney issues down the road.

I don’t recommend that you feed your cat dry food or kibbles due to the high carb content and lack of moisture.

Dry food isn’t good for your cat and can do more harm than good in the long run.

Can Cats Eat Food That Has Been Left Out Overnight?

You should not be leaving food out the whole night for your cat to eat. But if you do need to for very valid reasons, try to place the food in a cooler area of the house.

If your cat is on a raw diet, it might be a good idea to have a few cans of wet food as a substitute.

Wet can can least longer throughout the night as it has already been processed.


Make sure to follow the above guidelines and suggestions when feeding your cat. This is to prevent any contamination that can make your cat sick. Remember to keep your cat’s eating area clean to prevent insects from coming and don’t leave any food overnight.

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