How Long Can Raw Cat Food Be Left Out? (For Dogs Too)

how long can we leave out raw meat for cats

A common question we get put to is how long can raw cat food be left for.

Indeed, it is a valid question.

There are no set rules as to how long raw pet food should be kept out.

Some raw pet food brands state that their food should be kept out for no more than 12 hours, while others state that it can be kept out for up to 24 hours.

Does Cat Food Go Bad If Left Out?

Yes, it does, if you leave food out in the open for too long. If you leave food sitting exposed at room temperature then it won’t be good after a few hours.

How long it takes to go bad also depends on what you are currently feeding your cats.

It’s better for your cat to be eating fresh food rather than a stale meal.

The Eating Habits Of Cats

Most cats have a rather unique eating habit as compared to dogs.

When you feed a dog its meal, chances are it would only take a few minutes for the dog to woof (pun intended) it all down.

That is pretty much how a dog would eat.

For cats, the majority will eat some and then leave to do something else. After nibbling at the food, they might spend some time grooming themselves, use the toilet or even take a short nap.

They will return their food bowl and consume more of their cat food before doing something else again.

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.

So what can we do to resolve this?

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 raw food 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

Use Ice or An Ice Pack

This method is more suitable for cats that don’t take too long to finish the food.

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.

Best Practices For Raw Cat Food

The FDA suggests not leaving raw food out in the open for more than 2 hours. And if it’s a hot day like 90F then not more than an hour. This applies to all the different typed of raw meat that you are feeding your cat.

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

I understand that we don’t want our cats to get sick eating contaminated food but a cat’s digestive system can handle raw meat a lot better than humans.

Does Raw Cat Food Need To Be Kept In The Fridge?

Absolutely. By keeping the raw meat in the fridge just before feeding, it will prevent the meat from being contaminated.

It would be best to freeze any raw meat that you don’t plan to feed your cat yet. Only thaw what is required.

How Long Can Wet Cat Food Be Left 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?

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

Not the ideal way for your cat to get its nourishment. At the very least, feed your cat wet food.


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.

Is it ok to leave cat food out overnight

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