HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Canned Cat Food... [moved from General Topics board]

OK, I know this is going to get moved or removed by the Mods, but it is a serious question and I hope that it stays up long enough to get an answer.

How long can an opened can of cat food stay out and still be safe for them to eat?

I know that we could put it in the refrigerator, but it just seems like it wouldn't be as good for them taste wise. I know that Deviled Ham isn't as good, so that is what I am basing this on.

We are supposed to feed them 1/2 a can in the morning and 1/2 a can at night, and with 3 cats, we will always have a half a can left over!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Microwave it briefly before serving it to them, just enough to take the chill off.....

    1 Reply
    1. re: KSlink

      I have a snap on cover that fits cat food cans or I just use plastic wrap if the cover isn't clean. I microwave the food very briefly to bring the food to about room temp. The cats don't seem to have a problem with it and the few extra seconds it takes isn't a hassle at all.

    2. Moved to NOT ABOUT FOOD is likely.
      Many cats here.I don't like to refrigerate open cans.I will not feed COLD FOOD.The cats don't care flavor wise after the frig,but rewarming is a PIA.If it's no more than 8 to 12 hours in a cool spot,less than 70*f I just cover tightly.I have a cupboard that is very cool,58*-60* right now where leaving a breakfast can until dinner is my habit.

      1. I've never had a cat that would eat the food cold from the fridge, and only one that would eat it reheated. I just feed them less food more often - i.e., divide the whole can between all each meal and feed three or four times times a day instead of two. I actually started doing this because I found they digested smaller meals better, but I don't know if that would work for you.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ratgirlagogo

          Our cats wouldn't eat food from the refrigerator until we switched from the pate style to in Gravy. Now we have no problem taking the open leftover can and dishing it out to the cats. After all, they eat turkey, cheese and other deli straight from the refigerator.

          1. re: bagelman01

            Our cats won't eat anything cold from the fridge, including people food. I know other cats who will, but ours won't.

        2. I refrigerate Fancy Feast (a.k.a. crack for cats) ALL THE TIME since Queenie gets 1/4 can per day as a vehicle for one of her medicines. She doesn't balk at the chill at all (she is katty-BATTY for FF), but definitely you can pop it in the micro for a few secs and test the temp with your finger to make sure it's not too hot.

          For her regular food, also canned, I leave it covered on the counter all day--1/2 can in a.m., 1/2 can for dinner.

          2 Replies
          1. re: kattyeyes

            My pigs, I mean cats, will eat cold canned cat food. They nosh on dry kibble all day and get the canned good stuff in the morning and at night so it's like a treat for them. I suggest taking the food out of the fridge as soon as you get home from work so by the time it's dinner time for the cats, the food is at room temp.

            1. re: MysticYoYo

              Honest and for true, about 5-10 seconds in the microwave takes the cool off of a little bit of canned cat food right quick! But my girl does not seem to mind her "pâté" straight from the fridge. :) Her midday meal is at 2; I set an alarm on my phone so I don't forget. But somehow my cat can tell time and sometimes even shows up early. HA HA HA!

          2. I feed Friskies pate to one cat and Benefuls stew meals for dogs (at the moment) to the other. They each get the equivalent of 1/4 can of cat food each morning. I pop a pet food lid on the can and keep it in the fridge. They've never complained about the temp.

            I had previous cats who would lick off the stew in those type of foods and leave the chunks, so I switched to pate.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tracylee

              They're funny about consistency, aren't they?!

            2. At the advice of our vet, we just switched to the canned stuff. They will eat it straight out of the refrigerator, but it just seems less appetizing than it already is!

              1. As others have already mentioned, very few cats will eat food straight out of the fridge. Can you blame them? It's sort of like asking you to eat ice cold leftover chili. There may be a few takers, but the majority would probably prefer it warm or at least room temp.

                While these days I have enough cats (4) to enable me to divvy up 2 cans equally, back in my minority cat population days (& pre-microwave, I might add), I used to remove the plastic can-saver top from the can & sit it on top of an old electric toaster that I never used anymore. One "toast" cycle & the leftover food was warmed perfectly. But I'm sure the same results could be obtained by putting the food in a dish & microwaving it for a few seconds. Just be sure you stir it before serving to eliminate any searing hot pockets.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Bacardi1

                  micro for a few seconds is good, and ditto on stirring it up...plus, since my cat eats the "pate" texture (which tends to dry out more) I usually mix in a tsp of hot water to make it softer for her...noticed that since she licks it off the plate, if it is dry it sticks in her mouth (she makes that weird face and her tongue tries to work it off the roof of her mouth or something).
                  Funny how the cats have trained us in their preferred food prep!

                  1. re: BeeZee

                    We are trained well aren't we? This post made me giggle thinking about the cats face.

                  2. re: Bacardi1

                    OK, I've read this whole thread and now I have to respond:

                    My wife and I have had, in 27.5 years of marriage, more than 20 cats we have lived with. She had cats log before that. We have never -- NEVER -- had a single cat refuse food from the fridge. (Or, in the case of Clementine, one of the current brood, from anywhere else for that matter.)

                    This repeated shibboleth sounds an awful lot like putting "People" intentions on feline behavior.

                    Honus Wagner would come running if he heard your hand _touch_ the milk jug. I experimented for years; he wouldn't be present if I touched the marmalade, the butter, the cheese, or the wine, but by gum touch the milk jug and he'd be there before you could lift it.

                    1. re: jmckee

                      My cat absolutely walks away from ice cold food, she will come back to it later when it warms up to room temp. I certainly didn't "teach" her the behavior. I think it may have more to do with the cat not smelling it as much if it is cold, rather than the temp, per se.

                      1. re: jmckee

                        But still that's just your personal experience - regardless of the 27.5 year timespan. Obviously others - myself included - have personally watched cats walk away from cold food. No anthropomorphism whatsoever.

                        1. re: jmckee

                          Above my remark was "I will not feed "COLD FOOD"" yes most of mine over the years would eat it,starting with our first litter of siamese born 1949.But why do it?It's too easy to serve neutral temperature food.
                          I don't even subject our "barn" animals to icy water.Cold,yes because you can't do everything.
                          Mouth comfortable temperatures isn't that much work.

                          1. re: jmckee

                            Cold temperature isn't necessarily bothersome to cats (anyone have a cat that loves ice cream? uh huh). Cats respond strongly to how food smells -- that's also why they lose their appetites when they have a respiratory infection. Cold food just doesn't smell as strongly as a freshly opened can of yuck. I'd say your experience is a bit of an outlier, Jmckee; prob more about your training of them than cat preference.

                            Most of my cats through the years have turned up their noses at chilled half-cans. I simply gently microwave and they become more interested. I'd never leave it sitting out.

                            1. re: jmckee

                              Ben (our hound dog) loves Fancy Feast Chicken Hearts & Livers in Gravy that we can actual bury a pill in a spoonful, which he'll wolf down in a mouthful. We keep it on hand for the off times we run out of cheese or PB in the house. Ben's an omnivore, but he does not like cold food. The only thing he likes cold (with ice cubes, actually) is his water, but he too likes food warm .

                              I have a feeling (if this hasn't been said upthread) the warming enhances scent, too...part of the appeal.

                          2. His Higness gets a 1/4 can of Fancy Feast at a time which we cap and put in the 'fridge after opening. For the chilled food, we nuke it for 5-6 seconds and he is fine with it.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mike0989

                              Just out of curiousity, how large/old is "His Highness"? Those cans of Fancy Feast are uber tiny (I know - have some on hand for special treats for our super-senior feline), & estimate that 1/4 of one of those cans amounts to maybe 1/2 a tablespoon?

                              1. re: Bacardi1

                                He's about 9 lbs and 8 years. We just give him the Fancy Feast as a bit of a treat. He's fine eating his dry food the rest of the time.

                            2. The other thing is that I really don't like the smell of canned cat food, and heating it would make it worse, especially first thing in the morning. Thank goodness the cats have a better sense of smell, no matter what the temp of the food.

                              1. If you leave canned cat food out,you risk making your cats sick, or worse. Canned food for cats spoils the same as canned food for humans if it is not refrigerated.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Joyfull

                                  I am not so sure you are correct.Most if not all canned dog and cat food is cooked twice.Once prior to the can and fully again in canning.

                                  1. re: Joyfull

                                    I have one cat that eats canned cat food, and he gets about a quarter can in the morning and night. So it sits out for 2 days before he gets the last quarter can. He's been fine.

                                  2. I couldn't bear to put cat food in the microwave! I ate the way it smells and would be terrified that it would impart some of that odor to reheated lasagna or something!

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: Clarkafella

                                      The way to entice a sick cat to eat is to microwave a bit of wet food for a few seconds and then stir it up. The heating brings out the stench in the food, which cats find appealing. The stinkier the better.

                                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                                        Our best ever vet said, if a cat is sick and will not eat, the most enticing food is the cheapest, crappiest canned tuna cat food, the one that smells like what I remember all cat food smelling like when I was a kid.

                                        She also said that Fancy Feast, while not ideal nutritionally, had saved more kitty lives than she could count. Certainly did for our one dear boy, 6 years' worth.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          I agree, particularly re: the Fancy Feast. It's kept one of our old geezers going for quite some time now when we thought he was fading.

                                          1. re: Bacardi1

                                            Our one dear boy lived on cod, sole, and shrimp feast for the last 6 years of his 19 1/2, after having been terribly sick and not expected to recover.

                                      2. re: Clarkafella

                                        If you keep your microwave relatively clean, that shouldn't happen. I microwave leftover fish dishes all the time in my microwave, & nothing has ever carried over.

                                        1. re: Bacardi1

                                          I agree the leftover smell in the microwave should NOT be problematic, though I don't eat fish in the first place (unless sushi), nevermind leftover! ;)

                                      3. I raised and showed pedigreed cats for over 30 years - hundreds of cats and kittens have been nurtured in my home. Ever eaten human food that has been refrigerated in an open can? Once the can is opened, a metallic taste is imparted to the contents unless the can is lined with BPH or other risky compounds. Better to transfer the un-needed cat or dog food to a food-safe covered storage container. Better yet, a microwaveable one, so that it becomes the bowl for warming up and feeding for a subsequent meal.

                                        If your concern is the freshness of unconsumed canned food left out for the cat while the owners are off at work: use heavy ceramic pet food crocks, whose mass controls temperature better than thinner bowls. Put half the desired amount of food into a crock, cover, and freeze until morning. In the morning, "frost" the frozen food with the rest of the canned food, which has been refrigerated overnight (NOT in the can). You may want to add a third, room-temp layer. Unless your home is very hot, this will keep the food cool for most of the workday. This is the way I fed weanling kittens, and nobody ever got sick from spoiled food.

                                        1. In my home office, I have an L-shaped built-in desk with a tw0-drawer filing cabinet at one end. Next to that, is mrs. al b. darned's desk.

                                          Queen Tutt is old, arthritic, and mostly deaf, and spends most of her day sleeping on one desk or the other. Though I have had one or more cats for the better part of the last 30 years with varying tastes, this is the first one I've ever had who doesn't like milk products or cat food containing tuna or other fish products.

                                          Though she has a bowl of water and Kitty Crunchies on the floor, she also gets one can of Kitty Crack per day which is served (in a small bowl on the desk) one spoonful at a time throughout the day. She only (sometimes) likes turkey, chicken, liver, or some combination of the of the three. Though pate is sometimes acceptable, bits in gravy is usually the preferred form. Even then, the gravy is licked off in the bits eaten later, if they don't dry out first. I usually open the can around 9 in the morning and, depending on her mood, is usually gone by 9 or 10 at night. It is never refrigerated and she has never shown any ill effects from it being left out all day. Anything left over by then is given to Webster, who also (gladly) eats it with no ill effects.

                                          Webster also gets a can of Kitty Crack a day, half a can at a time. The half not served in the morning is capped and put in the refrigerator. It is served in the evening straight from the refrigerator and promptly gobbled up.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: al b. darned

                                            LOL, someone else understands Kitty Crack! Send my kind regards and a pet to both your kitties, but especially Queen Tutt. I also live with a Queen(ie)--that is but one of her many nicknames.

                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                              Don't get me started on kitty nicknames. And i feed my two kitty crack as of the last few days. I switched from a previous brand they stopped liking.

                                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                                Just fed the 'muffin head and big boy kitty crack and it went over swimmingly. They love that stuff.

                                                1. re: suzigirl

                                                  And thank goodness for kitty crack--it's the gateway back to "real food" when things are off. At least it has been, for the most part, for mine.

                                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                                    As our Bklyn vet said...man I miss her.

                                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                                      Everything was off for the babies tummies for a while and i switched from Fromm to Natural Balance and kitty crack for the nighttime dinner. For the moment we are cool. Hope we stay good for their sake

                                                      1. re: suzigirl

                                                        I hear ya, suzigirl. Fingers crossed for your babies and my kattygirl as well. When Queen was in really rough shape, I was also lucky with Harmony for her.

                                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                                          Thank you bunches. I will try it for sure.

                                                  2. re: kattyeyes

                                                    I've always heard kitty crack as the name for freeze-dried bonita tuna flakes