Does Dry Cat Food Expire? [How to Check It To See If It’s Good?]

Dry cat food is a popular choice for pet owners because it is affordable and easy to store. However, pet owners have one common question: whether or not dry cat food expires and what to do with it once it expires?

Dry cat food can expire, although it may not do so in such an obvious way as wet cat food, which will turn moldy. You can check whether it is still okay for your cat to eat by smelling it and inspecting the surface for signs of mold, but it is best not to feed your cat dry food that expired a long time ago.

Knowing whether food is safe to feed to your cat is crucial. It helps ensure your cat stays happy and healthy and reduces the risk of unnecessarily wasting food.

How Long Does Dry Cat Food Last When Sealed?

How long dry cat food will often last depends on the container, the manufacturers sealed it in. If you buy dried cat food in an airtight plastic bag, it will likely last longer. It might be fine for your cat to eat several weeks after the “best before” date.

Dried cat food that is in a paper bag or a cardboard box will not last as well because these materials allow more airflow. Air often contains microorganisms that can damage the food, eventually affecting the taste, texture, and quality as the fats and preservatives start to spoil.

Cat food that is sealed in plastic will not last forever, but it is likely to remain fresh for longer.

If you have purchased cat food in a paper bag or a cardboard box and you want to make it last better, consider placing it inside a sealed airtight container until you are ready to use it.

How Long Does Dry Cat Food Last Once Open?

An opened bag of cat food will not last as long as a sealed one, so it’s best not to open food in advance. There is a lot more airflow in an open bag, and therefore the food will come into more significant contact with fungal spores and moisture, which will compromise its structure.

If you transfer dry cat food to an airtight container when you open it, it should last much longer. However, it is still a good idea to keep the packaging or at least the “best before” date so you know how long the cat food should last.

How Can I Tell If Dry Cat Food Has Expired?

It isn’t always easy to tell when dry food has gone bad because it isn’t as susceptible to mold as wet food. That means it may not visibly change, even if it has turned stale. According to TheSprucePets, one of the key ways to tell whether cat food is still fresh is the smell.

Cat food doesn’t smell very nice even when it is fresh, but if you smell expired dry food, you will probably be able to tell when it has gone bad. The fats may turn rancid, which will create an off-putting odor.

This test is particularly easy to do if you are familiar with the brand, as you are more likely to know how it should smell. It may be more challenging with an unfamiliar brand, but biscuits with a musty odor should be discarded.

If the cat food smells totally fine and you cannot see any sign of mold on the surface, try gently crushing a biscuit. If it has gone soggy, it is no longer good for your pet to eat, and you should throw it away.

What Might Go Wrong With Expired Dry Cat Food?

Dry cat food can suffer from various issues. Often, dry food will get contaminated by fungal spores in the air, which may then start to grow on the surface of the food and spread throughout the container. This could be dangerous for your pet to consume.

EpicPetClub recommends never feeding your cat food that has expired in case it makes them sick. Fungal infections will often appear as white or blue fluffy specks on the exterior of the food. They are much more likely to be an issue on food that has got damp.

Sometimes, food that is still technically fine for your cat to eat will have lost some of its nutritional value. 

Over time, the fats and other components of the food might start to break down, and this will make it a less valuable source of nutrients for your cat. It should still be safe, but it won’t keep your cat as healthy.

The nutritional decline will often be totally invisible, but it is very likely to occur in expired food.

The degradation of preservatives may also be a problem that could affect the taste and texture. This usually doesn’t make the food unsafe, but it may mean that the food does not taste as good to your cat.

Overall, expired food is unlikely to be good for your cat, even if it is not directly harmful.

Why Won’t My Cat Eat Dry Cat Food That Has Expired?

Don’t be too surprised if your cat won’t eat dry cat food once it has expired. Often, the simple explanation for this is that your cat can smell something in the food that you can’t detect, and this warns the cat not to eat it.

Most animals have instincts about what is and is not safe for them to eat. Although these instincts are certainly not foolproof, they may explain why your cat is refusing the food.

Don’t depend on this to keep your cat safe, however. Do not give your cat food that you know has spoiled because if this defense mechanism fails, your cat could get very sick. If the food shows any signs of mold or has a bad smell, throw it away.

Why Can’t I Find A “Best Before” Date On The Cat Food?

You may well discover that there is neither a “best before” nor an “expiry date” date on some packages of dry cat food. Although many manufacturers do include at least one of these, this is a matter of courtesy. 

No law currently requires them to do this in the United States.

That means that some food packages will not have any date on them. If you buy food without one, try to remember to write the purchase or opening date on the packaging to know when you got it.

This won’t tell you how long the food should last (since this depends heavily on the ingredients used, the kind of packaging, and the date of manufacture). But it will give you a better idea of how long you have had the food for. You can then estimate whether it is safe to feed your cat.

If the packet of food does have a “best before” date. Pay attention to this and do not keep the food for weeks after that date.

Final Word

Dry cat food does expire. So it’s crucial to adhere to any dates that appear on the packet and also keep track of when you purchased food. 

If it helps, use written notes for this. Store opened food packages in airtight containers to reduce the airflow and keep the food dry. If dry cat food gets wet, it will need to be thrown away as it will quickly turn moldy.

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