close up of a grey tabby cat eating a saucer of chunky wet food

Can Cats Eat Cold Wet Food?

Can cats eat cold wet food? Is it even worth trying to feed them cold food from the refrigerator? The answer is that cats can eat cold wet food. They just won’t find it as appealing as warmer food.

Let’s take a look at what the science says and see whether your best feeding your cat cold wet food, food that is at an ambient temperature, or warmed food. 

Read on to learn more…

Will Cats Eat Cold Food

Cats will eat cold cat food straight out of the refrigerator or food sachets that have been stored in a cool dry place. 

Some owners report that their cats are perfectly fine with cold wet food and will wolf it down without any issues. My experience is that my cat will eat it but won’t be crazy about it. She usually leaves it after a few test bites and returns twenty minutes later when the chill has left the food.

Some cats simply won’t eat it. They will inspect the food and then look at you like you are mad! They might even appear to prefer to starve themselves rather than eat food they don’t like!

vomiting tabby cat outdoors
Was That Cold Food Sir?

Can Cold Food Make Cats Sick

Despite what you read on the internet, cold food will not make a cat sick. The temperature simply has nothing to do with the likelihood of your cat getting sick.

What makes your cat sick is spoiled food. Food that is past its date, food that is contaminated, food that has been opened and left unused for hours and has spoiled. Or food that has been put down for your cat in a timed feeder and has been standing too long.

In these instances, you get a build-up of bacteria in the food and the ingestion of the bacteria can make your cat sick.

Cold food affecting your cat’s teeth – Nope, unlikely. Cats don’t chew food. Their teeth are for ripping and shredding. They eat whole lumps of food, so refrigerated food is unlikely to have any more or less impact on a cat with damaged teeth!

close up of a tabby cat eating from a stainless steel bowl

Why Does My Cat Like Cold Food?

If your cat actively enjoys cold food at the expense of warmer options then you should consider that slightly strange but not really concerning.

There could be two issues at play here. Either you are living in a warm climate and the cold food is a refreshing meal – like a meaty flavored popsicle for your cat, which they enjoy like you might enjoy an ice cream on a hot day. Or, they have been conditioned from kittenhood that cold food is the correct food and therefore anything else seems strange.

There is no real science that says your cat should enjoy cold food or provide any that provides meaning as to why your cat enjoys cold food.

Do Cats Like Their Food Cold Or Warm?

This is where real science comes in. Read this. It is a proper scientific study that set out to investigate how to get old cats who are fussy eaters to eat more.

What the scientists specifically looked at was the effects of wet cat food temperature on older cats, aged 7 years or older, and whether the temperature of food would entice a fussy cat in this age range to eat more. 

They specifically tested a group of cats with refrigerated food at a chilly 6 degrees, food at ambient room temperature of 21 degrees, and food that had been gently heated to 37 degrees.

The results were conclusive. The cats preferred the warmed food followed by the food at ambient temperature with the cold food coming in last place. This was measured by the volume of food each group consumed.

an over the shoulder view of a grey cat eating kibble from a metal bowl
Warm enough?

So, at least for this age group, it is possible to claim that cats prefer their wet food warm!

That’s all great, but why is it that they find the warm food more palatable and enjoyable?

Well, the scientists initially believed that the older cats’ sense of taste and smell declined with age and this was what was making them fussy eaters. The real aim of the experiment was to see if this was the case and they inferred that warmer food would have a stronger aroma and flavor and would therefore overcome the older cats’ weaker senses and get them eating – and it worked!

But, why does warmer food taste better – and this was where the golden nugget of info dropped was dropped in. What the science bods know from other food chemistry studies is that when food is warmed to 37 degrees the meats in the food give off sulfur-containing compounds that make the meat taste meatier and give all sorts of improved flavors – that your cat enjoys.

Additionally, the scientists noted that in the wild predators eat hunted meat that is at body temperature and instinct and evolution are strong amongst cats and are probably also having some sort of measurable impact!

The upshot was that picky eating cats ate more warmed food and there seems to be some flavor-based and instinctual-based evidence to back it up.

So do cats like food cold or warm? The answer would seem to be warm. If your cat won’t eat wet food it may be because it is too cold – try warming it!

How Can I Warm Up Cat Food?

Given the state of affairs it would seem to be preferable to warm up cat food to at least ambient temperature and preferably 37 degrees so how can you go about warming up cat food? 

Well, where I am a lot of wet cat food is sold in individual one meal trays or sachets. The day of the big can that goes in the refrigerator seems to have passed.

With tray or sachet food it is pretty easy to either store the food at an ambient temperature outside of the fridge, but if you want to heat it to 37 degrees you are going to have to either give it a short blast in a microwave or drop the packet into some warm water, unopened, like a boil in the bag meal and bring the food up to temperature – just make sure the food is not burning hot by sticking your pinky in before you serve it up!

If you are still buying food in cans that need to be stored after opening in a refrigerator then really you need to decant the food to a microwavable container or drop a portion in a sealable plastic bag and use the same heating tricks outlined previously.

Remember, you are not looking for piping hot, just gently brought up to warm!

close up of a cat eating chunky wet cat food from a purple bowl

Final Thoughts

Basically, cold food won’t harm your cat and if they have a preference for cold food then run with it, just ensure the food is used quickly after opening so it does not get a chance to spoil!

If you want to give your cat a flavor sensation or get a picky cat eating then opt for heating the wet food up. Your cat will get meatier flavors and a strong aroma that will spark their appetite and get them eating well!