Should I leave food out for my cat at night?

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As cat parents, don’t we always look out for our fur babies?

Without a doubt! We always have their best interest and some. Thinking about it, that’s what truly makes us animal lovers.

Honey (our cat) has been a part of our family for over 4 years and for my wife & I, it has probably become second nature to periodically check on her food and water.

During the ongoing pandemic situation, since both of us are working from home, it’s never really a problem with one of us always available to give food to our cat. But maybe you’re planning an overnight stay at a friend’s place and you’re wondering “Should I leave food out for my cat at night”

In most cases, there’s no problem if you leave food out for cats at night.

Free Feeding Cats. Is it good or bad?

Free feeding simply means putting out a limited quantity of food and letting the cat decide how much it wants to eat. Cats prefer to eat frequently (usually a couple of bites) instead of large portion sizes at once. Moreover, since cats are nocturnal creatures, they are active (running, playing, etc) and if you took away their food at night, they would starve through the night.

I’m not sure if you believe in a free feeding set up but it’s not like you’re giving them an unlimited supply of food. We leave a pre-determined quantity of Honey’s food out at night, every night. But there’s a caveat to this. My cat only eats a little at a time. If she were to over indulge all at once and then again cry for food, we probably wouldn’t encourage this set up. If your cat is overweight and always hungry, it’s probably not a good idea. Cats that over indulge are best put on a scheduled diet in consultation with your vet.

But assuming your cat doesn’t have an over eating/over weight problem, here are the benefits to leaving food at night.

Freedom from Schedules: Free feeding at night means you don’t have to go by any schedule. It’s easy to manage, particularly when you have other commitments (off to an un-planned meeting, stay back at work, out for dinner).

Freedom for your cat: Free feeding at night means your cat can decide how it wants to pace its meal through out the night between activities. It’s a freedom of choice given to your cat instead of giving it pre-defined meals for the day.

How long can you leave dry cat food out?

You can leave dry cat food out for 2-3 days. Personally, we have kept dry food out for our cat for up to 3 days without any problems. Although, cat dry food doesn’t go bad as quickly as cat wet food, it does change in taste due to over exposure after about 48 hours.

Does dry cat food go bad. How long does dry food last once opened?

It certainly does. Most cat dry foods have a shelf life of at least 6 months from the date of manufacturing to its best before date. It’s safe to use it up to the expiration date as mentioned by the supplier on the back of the product packaging/label. 

Many people believe it’s good to go for even a few months beyond its ‘best before’ date. But when it comes to my cat, I’m never willing to take that risk. Once opened, it’s recommended to store your cat’s dry food in an airtight pet food storage container. Storing it this way prevents oxygen exposure and helps keep the food safe & fresh.

How long can I leave wet cat food out?

Wet cat food will go bad in less than a couple of hours. If your cat ate spoiled wet food, it can get sick. So, after opening a can of wet food, always ensure your cat eats it within the next couple of hours. If not, get rid of the remaining food. So clearly you can’t leave wet cat food out at night. On the contrary, it’s a good idea to always leave some dry food out for your cat at night.

Should I leave food out for my cat all day?

For working cat parents this obviously isn’t a choice. You have to. Unless of course, you’re feeding your cat once a day. But for those of you whose cats are hungry all the time, maintaining a cat feeding schedule would be a better bet (talk to your vet for this) and in case your cat already has a feeding routine, it’s perhaps ideal to stay on it.  

Transitioning cats to scheduled feeding

If you intend to move your cat from a free feeding routine to scheduled feeling, it would be prudent to assess their feed portion size based on their nutritional requirement. Your vet will be able to assist you in this. Your cat will take at least a few weeks to a month to make this transition.


In the spirit of doing the right thing, I assume many cat parents leave food out for their cats at night.

Thanks for sharing. You're pawsome!

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