Is it Safe to Serve Expired Cat Food?

by johnsmith

Is it Safe to Serve Expired Cat Food – Pet owners are understandably concerned about the quality and safety of pet food, especially when companies issue recalls on cat and dog food. However, serving pet food past the labeled expiration date has become a topic of discussion.

Is it Safe to Serve Expired Cat Food

Is it Safe to Serve Expired Cat Food

Although pet foods in the United States are not required to have “Best By” dates (or expiration dates) labeled on their packaging, many companies still do so to inform consumers and stores how long they can guarantee the advertised quality of their products. Several factors like degradation and packaging strength impact how long these wet and dry pet foods can last past the recommended “use by” dates on the package.

Is it Safe to Serve Expired Cat Food

Just because a package of unopened cat food, whether it’s wet or dry, has outlived its recommended use date doesn’t mean it’s unsafe. However, you should watch out for a few things that could be amiss with the contents, including contamination, spoilage, lower nutritional value, and degrading of preservatives. Here’s how to spot these common problems with pet food that has passed its shelf life.

Nutritional Quality

Pet food’s shelf life is the time frame the manufacturer guarantees the nutritional values on its nutritional facts label, and the duration varies greatly by brand and type of food, whether it’s wet or dry.

Having an older can or bag of food doesn’t automatically mean it no longer possesses its nutritional value or gone bad, but products that are many months past their recommended “Best By” date should not be relied on. Food that hasn’t been opened and has no signs of spoilage or contamination may still have lost some of its nutrition since the preservatives and fats broke down naturally. Feeding your pet this type of food could lead to deficiencies in their diets, which could pose serious long-term health problems if continued.


Pet food packaging is designed to prevent contamination, but specific types are more likely to cause problems than others. Permeable packaging can expose food to moisture, insects, mold, and other contaminants, and the risk of this happening increases as time goes by—especially in biodegradable packaging.

Is it Safe to Serve Expired Cat Food

Check food for pests, mold, and other contaminants before giving it to your pets since these could make your cat sick. Even before the “Best By” date, be sure to look for signs of spoiled food, such as an off smell or discoloration, to prevent feeding your pet bad food.

Fat and Spoilage

Fat is found in pet food because it’s essential for cats, but even in dry food, it can become rancid over time. Nonetheless, you can’t judge food quality by smell only; many pet foods, particularly wet cat foods, have a pungent scent.

However, if you’re used to a particular brand or type of food, you’ll notice the product smells slightly off, especially if you’re looking for it because the item has passed its recommended shelf life. Canned food isn’t likely to spoil past the “Best By” date, but its shelf life is technically only a year from production time.

Degrading of Preservatives

Preservatives should keep cat food fresh, yet over time, the preservatives themselves can degrade. They lose their ability to prevent spoilage, mold growth, and microbial growth.

If your brand uses preservatives, you should try to use it within the recommended shelf life to ensure the preservatives will still perform their job.

The “Best By” or “Use By” dates are crucial in foods containing preservatives since that is usually how a company assesses its product’s shelf life.

True Meaning of Package Dates

There is no federal regulation barring grocery stores and food markets from selling products past their recommended “Best By” date. Most stores have policies that throw out these products once they pass their recommended shelf life. They often put overstocked items on sale if a batch is almost past its “Best By” date.

Packaged items like canned and dry pet foods don’t necessarily have “expiration dates” at all—unless specifically noted. Fresh food, which is rather a luxury item, however, may come with an actual expiration date. The only federal law mandating this type of labeling is for the date, if present, to be accompanied by a clear label specifying what that date represents.

Most companies post a “Best By” date since that is how long they can guarantee their product’s quality, but it’s not a scientifically sound way of judging whether the product has gone bad or not.

Can cats eat expired food?

No, it is not recommended to feed your cat expired food, including cat food or human food. Expired food can contain harmful bacteria or toxins that can make your cat sick.

What are the risks of feeding my cat expired food?

Expired food can contain harmful bacteria or toxins that can cause digestive upset, vomiting, diarrhea, or even food poisoning in cats. In some cases, it can also lead to more severe health problems.

What should I do if my cat eats expired food?

If you suspect that your cat has eaten expired food, monitor their behavior and symptoms closely. If they exhibit signs of illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, contact your veterinarian immediately.

How can I prevent my cat from eating expired food?

Store your cat’s food in a cool, dry place, and check the expiration date before feeding it to your cat. Avoid feeding your cat human food that has expired or shows signs of spoilage.

Can I still use cat food that has just passed its expiration date?

It’s not recommended to use cat food that has passed its expiration date, as it may not be safe for your cat to consume. It’s best to dispose of expired cat food and purchase fresh food for your cat.

Can I still use canned cat food after it has been opened?

Yes, you can still use canned cat food after it has been opened, but it should be refrigerated and used within a few days. Check the expiration date before feeding it to your cat.

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