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Is It OK to Feed My Cat Expired Cat Food? Dangers and Advice

Cat food can last a very long time. But what if it’s past its “best by” date? Is it safe to feed your cat expired cat food?

No, we don’t recommend you feed your cat expired cat food at all.

Feeding your cat food past its “best by” or the expiration date can be detrimental to your cat’s health and nutrition. Your cat should only be fed fresh and untainted food just like the ones you should eat yourself.


Shelf Life of Dry and Canned Cat Foods

a cat with dry and canned cat food
Image Credit: Alena Menshikova, Shutterstock

Cat food may seem like it can last nearly forever. And while it can last for a very long time unopened, that doesn’t mean that it can’t go bad. Dry cat food typically has a stable shelf life of somewhere between 4 months and 3 years. Unopened wet cat food tends to have a slightly longer shelf life due to the canning and preservation process. Once opened, you should store your cat’s wet food in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

However, you need to remember that some cat food expires faster than others. This is due to the actual makeup of the cat food.

Preservative-free cat foods may seem like a great all-natural approach to feeding your cat, but you’ll need to keep in mind just how fast they expire. And foods that are high in fat are much more likely to go rancid faster than leaner foods.

The Dangers of Expired Cat Food

Feeding your cat expired food can be worse than it just tasting yucky or stale.

These are a few things you need to be concerned with:
  • Lack of Nutrition: The “best by” or expiration date printed on your cat’s food isn’t just there to let you know when the food is inedible. It also tells you when the food will no longer be able to provide its advertised nutritional value. Even if the food doesn’t have any outside interference such as air, moisture, mold, or insects, the natural decomposition of the elements that make up the food will prevent your cat from receiving a balanced diet.
  • Bacteria and Mold: Expired or improperly stored food can promote mold and bacteria growth. These unwanted additions to your cat’s food can make them very ill and disturb their sensitive gastrointestinal tracts.
  • Bugs and Worms: Pet food that’s expired is much more likely to attract and house creepy crawlies as opposed to fresh properly stored food. These insects can carry with them several diseases that can be passed to your loved one via their food.

How to Tell If Your Cat’s Food is Expired

But how can you tell if your cat’s food is expired? This is much easier than you would think. The first thing you should check for is a “best by” or expiration date. This is a date that comes printed on the original packaging which indicates when the food should be used for maximum freshness and nutrition.

However, the date may be a bit tricky to find at first. It may be printed somewhere on the side or bottom of the bag or can. Normally, you would want to check this date before purchase. But if you didn’t have the opportunity before buying it, you need to inspect the bag and date before feeding it to your loved one.

Also, you should have some situational awareness when you’re feeding your cat. Does this food smell or look the same as last time you fed it to them? Are there bugs crawling around in it or is mold present? You should be asking yourself these questions as you’re preparing their dish.

When it comes to open canned cat food, determining whether or not the food is expired is pretty easy. If the food is discolored, has a sour smell, or is off in any other way, go ahead and toss it. It’s just not worth the risk of getting your feline furball sick.

gray shorthair cat and food can
Image Credit: WaitForLight, Shutterstock

Storing Dry and Canned Cat Food

To maximize the freshness of your cat’s food, proper storage is critical. You’ll need to protect it not just from the elements but from unwanted guests such as ants or roaches. We recommend keeping your cat’s food sealed and tucked away in a cool dry place until it’s ready to use. Places such as a kitchen cabinet, pantry, or utility closet work great because there are minimal fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

Once opened though, you may need to take some extra precautions. With dry food, it’s best to transfer the food to another container—one that’s resealable and more reliable than a heavy paper sack. The Gamma2 Vittles Vault is a perfect option. It’s got an easy screw-on lid, space-efficient design, BPA-free food-grade plastic form, and an airtight seal. All of these factors work together to keep air, moisture, and bugs from invading your cat’s food. However, an old plastic bucket with a lid works just as well.

Storing your cat’s wet food is just as simple. All you need to do is pop the unused portion into a food-safe storage container and set it in your fridge just like you would your leftovers. Now, if you’re not trying to dirty up one of your nice Tupperware containers for cat food, you can always pick up a cheap food container such as the Frisco Wet Food Container. It’s super affordable and gets the job done.

cat paw divider Feed Your Cat Only Fresh Food

Your cat deserves to eat the best food available to them to promote a healthy, active lifestyle. Expired food won’t give all the nutrition your cats need and may be harmful. And just because the food is unopened doesn’t mean it’s safe for consumption either.

If you come across expired food at your home, you should toss it out and get some new grub for your little furball. And if you see it at the store, be sure to inform a manager so they can pull the product from the shelves.

Feeding your feline companion fresh food is more than just recommended—it’s a must.

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Featured Image: Jiri Hera, Shutterstock