How Long Can You Leave Wet Cat Food Out?

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Cats will rarely finish their entire food in one go, as dogs do. You also probably won’t be feeding the cat a full can at once, which leaves leftovers in the can that you need to store. Therefore, many cat owners ask, ‘how long can you leave wet cat food out?’.

The answer to that question depends on a number of factors. Some of these factors include what type of food it is, the time of year, and temperature. 

» You might also want to read: 5 Best Automatic Cat Feeders for Wet Food.

cat eating tuna

Whether you’re just looking for more information on how to make sure your cat is eating food that is healthy, or you’ve just welcomed a little beauty into your home, this article will be discussing the safety practices of leaving your cat food out. 

How Long Can You Leave Wet Cat Food Out For?

Wet food is normally packaged in a can, and is sterile until the can is opened. The minute the can is opened, bacteria can begin to grow, so you must limit the amount of time it is left out, to a minimum. 

As mentioned earlier, this does depend on the temperature of the room where the food is being laid out. If it is relatively warm, then the food should not be left out for more than 20 minutes. Even if the temperature isn’t too warm, the food should not be left out for more than 30 minutes. 

A cat eating wet food out of a little dish

If left longer, the food can begin to dry up and won’t be appealing for your little pet to eat. Aside from this, bacteria can grow, which can lead to your cat getting sick. 

Air Exposure Is Dangerous For Wet Cat Food

When your cat’s food is exposed to air, it is also exposed to bacteria. Storage guidance is also very important. All foods should be kept in a cool, dry place. Your best bet is your kitchen pantry or inside a closet. 

Use Your Refrigerator!

If your cat doesn’t finish their wet food in one sitting, you should never leave it out until they’re ready for more. You should cover it up well, and put it in the refrigerator until they are ready to eat more.

You should make sure they are sealed tight, so no moisture can get into the can, as this is a breeding ground for bacteria. Zip lock bags are perfect for storing these kinds of foods. You can also buy plastic sealers that are made specifically to store cat food.

Cat eating out of a dish

While cats don’t typically like eating foods that are too cold, you can always warm their leftovers up by running them under warm water for a few minutes or putting them in the microwave for a short amount of time. You don’t need to make the food hot, just at room temperature. 

How Long Can You Leave Dry Food Out? 

Dry food is less inviting for bacteria, as they love moisture, so dry food can afford to be left out for longer periods of time than wet food. This kind of food is also usually processed at a higher temperature than dry food, so this ends up killing off any bacteria that has made its way to any of the ingredients. 

cat eating from bowl

Dry food can be left out for several days and still be safe for your little fluff ball to eat. However, it won’t be as fresh, so they may be hesitant to eat it if it’s been left out for a while.  Your best bet is to throw out any leftovers, wash the bowl, and fill it with new food to keep your little pet nice and happy. 

Dry Food, Wet Food, Or Both? 

Many cat owners wonder whether their little pets should be eating wet food, dry food, or both.

The good news is that most cat foods come packed with all the essential nutrients your little family member needs, whether it’s dry or wet. Below are a few differences between them. 


One of the main differences between wet and dry cat food is the moisture content. Wet food contains around 70% water and around 30% of dry food matter. Dry food, on the other hand, only contains around 10% water and 90% dry matter. 

cat eating

Therefore, if you’re concerned about your cat’s water intake, then feeding them wet food can provide them with water as well as food. 


Wet foods tend to be made with fresh or frozen meats, due to the higher moisture content in them. These meats are a great protein source and are usually blended together with extra water, vitamins, and fats, before being placed in the can. 

Once in the can, it all goes through a heating process, and this will kill off any bacteria that may have made their way into the ingredients. 

cat licking its lips

On the other hand, dry food is made by combining all the ingredients together, such as meats, fats, and minerals, and then cooking it at a very high temperature and pressure. Fat is then sometimes sprayed onto the food for it to be more digestible. 

Which One Is Best? 

Whichever type of food is best for your cat is down to personal preference, and their dietary requirements. 

Wet food has very high water content, so if your cat struggles to drink as much water as they should, then wet food is the best way to go. However, it can be more expensive than dry food, and you’ll need to be wary of leaving it out for too long. 

Dry food, however, is less expensive than wet food, and you don’t need to worry too much about bacteria when leaving it out. They do contain more carbohydrates than wet food, but whether your cat needs this will depend on their needs. 

two cats eating

Some cat owners enjoy feeding their pets a mixture of both dry and wet food, so they can have the benefits of both foods!

Final Thoughts 

Wet cat food should never be left out for more than 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the surrounding temperature. Not only will the food spoil, but leaving it out will attract unwanted bacteria that could make your cat very sick. 

If your cat does not finish an entire can in one sitting, cover it up, and leave it in the fridge until they are ready for more. 

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How Long Can You Leave Wet Cat Food Out

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