Does Wet Cat Food Need To Be Refrigerated After Opening?

Say you bought a big can of wet cat food and your pet won't be able to consume everything in one serving, what will you do with the remaining content? Will it still be good if you leave it on the counter or should you keep it in the fridge after opening? We asked our trusted vets and here's what they told us.

You need to refrigerate wet cat food right after opening it. Transfer the rest of the meal in a sealed container or cover it with food wrap. This will prevent spoilage. Make sure you use it within 4 to 5 days to ensure its freshness and best nutritional quality.

Continue reading because we'll share with you everything you need to know about the proper storage of opened and unopened wet cat food. We'll also tell you what to do with the uneaten portion of their food, how to warm up your feline's meal before serving, and how to tell if your pet's food has already gone bad.

A woman holding a stainless steel bowl filled with cat food, Does Wet Cat Food Need To Be Refrigerated After Opening?

How to store wet or canned cat food

Wet cat food is recommended by vets because of its high moisture content. This lowers the risk of urinary tract infection, kidney disease, and diabetes among felines. The downside is this kind of diet is very expensive, but the price doesn't matter when it's for our beloved pets, right? That's why pet parents should know how to store them properly so that money is well spent and more importantly, for their furry pals to savor these meals in their best quality.

Wet cat food, whether it is canned or pouched, has an expiration date. The shelf life may vary depending on the preservatives used. Natural preservatives are healthier for your pets but they have shorter expiration. Artificial substances can be used to prolong the food's shelf life, but they can be harmful to your pets in the long run.

It goes without saying that you should never feed your cat spoiled food. That's why you should always check the label for the product's expiration date. Also, check the quality of the food before you serve it to your cat to be sure that you're giving her the best nutrition.

Wet cat food placed on an orange cat bowl

Storing Unopened Wet Cat Food

You can do your part in ensuring that your cat's wet food is preserved in its best condition by storing it properly. For unopened products, you can keep them in a place that's cool and dry. They shouldn't be subjected to heat and oxygen because this could lead to food spoilage.

Storing Opened Wet Cat food

Once you open your wet cat food, it's best to transfer the remaining content to an airtight container and put it inside the refrigerator. You can also put it in a zip-top bag or cover it securely with plastic food wrap to ensure that no air can go inside. Make sure to use it within 4 to 5 days for its best quality.

How do you store cat food pouches?

You should always keep your meal pouches in a cool and dry place so that they will stay fresh longer. They shouldn't be exposed to extreme hot, cold, or humid temperatures to preserve their quality. For this reason, it is not recommended to store your unopened cat food pouches in the refrigerator or garage. Keep them away also from items that have strong smells such as soaps and detergents as they would affect the food's taste and smell.

How long do cat food pouches last?

There are some pet parents who prefer to buy wet cat food in pouches. They say these are more hygienic and it helps them manage their feline's diet better since each pouch is usually good for 1 serving. Once opened, you can keep the unused portion in a sealed container and put it in the refrigerator. Use within 4 to 5 days so that your pet can enjoy the meal in its best state.

How long can wet cat food stay out of the fridge?

It is recommended that you store your wet cat food in the fridge to keep it fresh and extend its shelf life. Once taken out of the fridge and served to your pet, it will stay good for 4 hours. It is not advisable to leave it out all day thinking that your cat would finish eating it later on. This can increase the risk of bacterial growth which would be harmful to your feline.

What do you do with uneaten cat food?

A small orange colored cat food bowl with cat food placed on a wooden floor

If your cat wasn't able to finish the food serving that you put on her bowl, you have to remove it after 4 hours and throw it away as it may already be contaminated with bacteria. Wash her bowl thoroughly with soap and water to remove any lingering germs from the exposed food.

It's best to give your cat smaller servings of food especially if you're introducing a new diet to your pet or she's not feeling well. Cover the remaining food and store it in the fridge right away. This is particularly for wet or canned food as they have a shorter shelf life than dry food. This will help you avoid wasting food. Observe your pet's consumption and adjust the portion accordingly or consider changing her diet to see if her eating behavior will improve.

How to warm up refrigerated cat food

Cats are very particular when it comes to the temperature of their food. They don't like to eat food that's cold or hot. They prefer eating warm food or at least at room temperature. This reminds them of the warm temperature of their prey that's why they are more enticed to eat it.

So if you stored your pet's food in the fridge, you should put it on the counter until it warms to room temperature. You can also put the airtight container in a dish with warm water. Warming the food also causes it to release a certain aroma that's very appealing to felines.

Don't ever use the microwave to heat your cat's food. It would kill the nutrients or make it more difficult for your pet to digest the nutritious elements contained in the meal.

How do you know if wet cat food is bad?

If you leave wet cat food out for long or if it is past its expiration date, there is a high probability that it has gone bad. This means the food is spoiled and unfit for your pet's consumption as eating it could cause an upset stomach or make her really ill. That's why it's very important to always check the quality and freshness of the food that you're serving.

Some of the signs that wet cat food is already bad are the presence of molds, pests, and other contaminants. The smell would also be off because of the rancidity of the fat contained in the wet food. Sometimes there are no tell-tale signs on the food itself but your cat would refuse to eat it. This is especially true for those canned foods that are past their "Best By" date. They have already lost their nutritional quality over time that's why they're no longer palatable to your pet.

Final Thoughts

Always refrigerate your feline's wet cat food right after you open it to preserve its freshness. This way, you can be sure that your pet is getting the best food quality and nutrition that she needs for optimum development.


  1. Thank you so much for this helpful information! I was not aware of this and will start being more careful with my cats food! Thanks again!

  2. I live in Maryland and it’s been almost 100 degrees for days on end. I received an ordered of Sheba cat food that originated in Florida. I can see a diddly in the color and the smell is stronger than normal. My cats are eating so.e, but not nearly as much as normal. Should food that’s just been delivered to me and is unopened be put in the refrigerator? The food is sealed properly but I’m certain it isn’t delivered on refrigerated trucks. I don’t have air conditioning but with fans and curtains it’s about 75 degrees in my home. If the food isn’t very appealing to my cats now will putting it in the refrigerator make a difference? Could I simply take it out the night before I use it the next day? Thank you?

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