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Everyone knows quality ingredients are important when it comes to the food your cat eats (or any of us for that matter). But have you considered the importance of freshness? Yes, just like people food, wet and dry cat foods can go bad. Here's how to ensure that your cuddly creature's next meal is as fresh as can be.
Shop at Busy Stores
Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, recommends that cat food consumers purchase their kitty vittles at stores with a high turnover of merchandise. "When there's a high volume of pet food sold, you can be assured that the food is rotated often and is as fresh as possible," she says. A small neighborhood store with a proprietor you trust to rotate and replace out-of-date stock can be just as viable.
Read the Product Codes
You wouldn't buy milk past its sell-by date, and you shouldn't purchase cat food that's gone beyond its best-used-by date either. Both dry and wet food have codes on the packaging that let you know when the product was manufactured, and by when it should be consumed. Natural brands have a shorter shelf life (about three months) while other commercial foods can last up to two years. Remember that the dates refer to when the product was manufactured, and not when you purchased it, so a dry cat food with a shelf life for 16 months will retain its freshness for 16 months after the day it was made.
Examine the Package
A bag that looks like it's (barely) survived a natural disaster can yield bad food. "Look for indicators such as tears, surface mold, dampness marks or debris on the bag," advises Tobiassen Crosby. Those are signs of potential problems (it's a good idea to inform the merchant of any damaged goods on their shelves even if you choose not to purchase them).
Buy the Small Bag
Cat food may be less costly in bulk, but what you save in cash you'll lose in freshness. The longer you have a big sack of cat food sitting in the cupboard, the less fresh it will become. Unless you have more than one cat to gobble the food up, look for small-to-regular size containers. You may be tempted to bring home that large bag (fewer trips to the market!), but most likely it will overstay its welcome. To buy smaller bags of dry cat food means going through it faster and replenishing more often, which guarantees freshness.
Take Care to Store Well
Dry food should be stored in an airtight container, in a cool, dry place. Specialty pet stores sell air and watertight "vittles vaults" to make dry food storage especially simple. Dry products can also be frozen without a loss of nutrients. As for wet food, once opened, it's imperative to keep it in the refrigerator for no longer than three days. Again, specialty pet stores often sell can covers with ledges and lips that keep flavor in, and air out.
Darcy Lockman is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat. Her work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times and Rolling Stone.