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Food Safety For Cats

food safety for cats

This is an important topic that doesn't seem to get a great deal of coverage. Most pet owners feed a commercial diet and assume they don't need to put a great deal of thought into food safety as it has been taken care of by pet food manufacturers. To some extent, this is correct. But as we all love our cats and want the best for them, it is important to play an active role in food safety to ensure they stay safe.

Commercial food:

Commercial food comes in three forms, dry, canned and raw. Pet food manufacturers have to abide by food safety and nutritional guidelines to ensure pet food meets your cat's needs.

  • Even dry food can be contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella which can cause food poisoning in your cat. Always discard food that has passed its use-by date.
  • Stick with well-known brands of food.
  • Always store as directed. Dry food should be kept in its original packaging, which is designed to keep the food fresh. Try to keep as much air out of the bag as possible by rolling the top over after use. I also recommend storing the bag in a large plastic or metal container to keep insects out.
  • Dry food should be stored in a cool, dark place and out of sunlight.
  • Canned food should be kept in a cool, dark place. Once opened, store in the fridge for 3-5 days. Cans should be transferred to a glass or ceramic bowl and covered, or if left in the tin, use a plastic cap (available from most pet stores) to cover the can.
  • I am personally not a fan of raw commercial food. There have been several instances of contamination. If you do want feed your cat raw commercially prepared food, make sure it is from a reputable source.
  • Don't buy swollen or dented cans of food.
  • Don't feed cats dog food, it doesn't contain the right nutrients to meet your cat's needs.
  • Dry food can be left out for your cat to graze on, although you should not put enough food down that it is sitting around for days on end. Give your cat a small amount of dry and throw out/replace uneaten food daily.
  • Canned or home prepared wet food (such as canned or raw) should be removed and thrown away after 20-30 minutes.

Home prepared food:

  • Always buy from a reputable butcher and buy human grade meat.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before and after preparing food. Don't forget to clean under your nails.
  • Even better, wear disposable food handling gloves when cutting up meat.
  • Have one cutting board for meat and one for vegetables to avoid cross contamination.
  • Prepare food as soon as you can. If preparing a large quantity of food, put it in single or daily-sized portions and freeze.
  • Frozen food should be defrosted either in the fridge or in a microwave using the defrost option, don't defrost meat on a kitchen bench as bacteria can quickly multiply.
  • Keep raw food and cooked food separate at all times. When storing raw food in the fridge, place it in a bowl or on a plate and cover. Raw food should be kept on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
  • Refrigerated food can be kept for 2-3 days, after that, discard.
  • If feeding bones, they should only be raw. Cooked bones become too brittle.
  • If you are cooking food for your cat in large batches and plan to freeze it, place it straight into the fridge, once it has cooled  transfer to the freezer.

Human food:

  • Don't feed food that has expired or been sitting in the fridge for days. If you wouldn't eat it, don't give it to your cat.
  • Don't feed cats food containing onion or garlic which is toxic.

Food bowls:

  • Food bowls should be cleaned in hot soapy water daily.
  • Water should be changed daily.
  • The best food bowls are glass or ceramic. It is not recommended that you use plastic bowls.
  • If you have a cat who is sick, if possible isolate and feed him from his own food and water bowl. Some contagious diseases can be spread via fomites (inanimate objects).
Food storage temperature °C Shelf life in the home
Seafood 0-3 3 days
Meat 0-3 3-5 days
Minced meat and offal 0-3 2-3 days
Poultry 0-3 3 days

Food recalls:

U.S Food and Drug Administration list of recalled pet food

Australian Veterinary Association list of recalled pet food