Can Canned Cat Food Be Left In A Hot Car?

It is all too easy to make the mistake of leaving something in a car after a trip to the grocery store, and if you’ve just discovered some canned cat food out there, you might be wondering whether it’s okay to feed it to your cat or if you need to discard it and buy some fresh food.

Can Canned Cat Food Be Left In A Hot Car?

Canned cat food shouldn’t be left in a hot vehicle for extended periods. Overexposure to heat can cause the nutrients to change, explode the container, cause bacteria growth, and cook the food.  Often, it will be fine, but you should be careful if it has got higher than ninety degrees F or stayed in the car for a long time.

Can Canned Cat Food Go Bad In Heat?

Many people think of canned food as invincible and impossible to contaminate, no matter what conditions you subject it to. However, we have all heard stories about canned food lasting for years, and it’s well known that canned food is heated to very high temperatures while in the can in order to sterilize it.

If the food is sterile and the can is undamaged, you might be wondering what could go wrong. For example, does extreme heat exposure cause a problem with canned food?

There seems to be a lot of debate about the subject, and while many people think it would be fine, it is important to be aware of the risks. 

According to NewbiePrepper, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services say that cans should not be exposed to temperatures higher than 100 degrees F. Ideally, cans should be stored at 84 degrees F or below.

Obviously, that refers to the canned food that people eat rather than cat food, but it’s a good standard to set to prioritize your cat’s health and make sure that its food is okay. So, how hot does a car interior get?

It might be worth checking it out for yourself some time with a thermometer, but it’s possible for a car to reach 100 degrees F in summer, even if the temperature outside does not climb this high. In direct sun, with a sealed interior, cars can get extremely warm indeed.

That means it is possible your canned cat food has got to over 100 degrees F, and if so, you might want to avoid feeding the food to your cat. It might be fine, but it might not, and you may not wish to take the risk.

What Signs Should I Look Out For?

If you can’t decide and you don’t think the car would have reached that kind of temperature, you might be wondering what you can check for. There are a few things to do while assessing the cans to see if they are safe for your cat.

One: Look For Bulging

If a can is bulging or has become misshapen, it should be discarded. This is likely to mean that the can is no longer adequately sealed, which means bacteria could enter the food inside. However, cans should not lose their shape, and bulges are an indication that something is wrong with the can and its contents.

Any significant dents or cracks should also be a warning that the food inside the can has been compromised and isn’t safe for consumption anymore. As pointed out by TheSprucePets, opened cat food should not be left exposed to room temperature for more than twenty to thirty minutes, and a broken can counts as opened food.

Get rid of any cans that are obviously “open” via a breakage or cans that have bulged and warped because they may also be broken in ways you can’t see.

Two: Check The Car Temperature

It’s a good idea to check your car’s temperature if you can. The weather may have changed, making this impossible, but if there’s an opportunity to do it, try to do so. This will give you better information about how likely the food is to be safe.

Remember, if the cans have been in the car for several days, take the hottest day as your guide because it is the one that is most likely to have compromised the food.

Three: Open A Can And Smell It

Cat food is never going to smell nice, but if you can stomach it, this may be a good (although not foolproof) test. Meat goes off fast, and if the food inside the cans has been compromised, it may have an unpleasant smell.

You will probably find that it makes you retch because we are predisposed to dislike the smell of rotting meat as a means of keeping us from eating it and being made ill. 

To be clear, the absence of a bad smell isn’t a sure sign the food is fine to eat, because food-borne bacteria won’t necessarily create a scent. However, if it smells terrible, you will know it isn’t safe to feed your cat.

Four: Talk To The Manufacturer Or A Vet

When in doubt, a call to the experts can help. You might be able to find a number for the manufacturer, who should be able to tell you what temperature their product is guaranteed up to. Most will have the information on their website. 

Alternatively, give your vet a call and ask their advice on whether the food will be okay.

Five: Offer A Small Amount

Cat food is expensive, and many people can’t afford to lose a stack of cans all at once. So while you don’t want to poison your cat, you may wish to test a small amount of the food on the cat.

The chances are that your cat will be able to tell whether or not the food is bad and reject it if it’s not safe. Of course, you absolutely should not depend on this strategy as a foolproof option, but if your budget is tight, it may be worth trying it.

If the cat rejects the food, throw it away and provide something fresh. Of course, it may be that the food is fine and your cat is just being fussy, but it’s better to be safe than sorry in such cases!

Where Should You Store Cans?

Since cans clearly are vulnerable to heat exposure, you might be wondering what the proper storage method is. Ideally, you shouldn’t store cans anywhere that they might be exposed to extreme temperatures, so a garage or shed is not a great place either.

The best option is in a cool, dark place. For example, if you have a pantry, keeping cat food cans on the pantry floor might work. Alternatively, stack them in a cupboard or another reasonably cool spot if possible.

Canned food does not need to be kept in the fridge until it has been opened, but once it is open, it should be refrigerated. Any food kept at room temperature that is not eaten within half an hour to an hour should be thrown away.

Can Canned Food Explode In A Hot Car?

A can won’t literally explode in your vehicle, making a huge mess. But overexposure to the heat can cause the contents to spill out when opened. It’s is a sign of spoilage and shouldn’t be fed to your feline friend. 

Final Word

Cat food cans should not be left in a hot car, no. If you have accidentally done this on a warm or cool day, it should be okay, but if the temperatures have been high, the safest option is to throw the cat food away and buy some fresh. 

While this may be over-cautious, it’s better than accidentally feeding your cat something unsafe!

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