One of my cats (2 years old) loves can food and goes crazy once a fresh can is opened. However if I put the can in the fridge for the next meal it seems the scent has gone away and she wont eat it unless shes quite hungry and will whine for a new can and start licking me. Is there a way I can keep this fresh scent of a newly opened wet can food? I have tried:

Putting the can in a container then refrigerating, this seems to help but still loses the scent.

  • 3
    Tried tossing the cold meal in the microwave for a few seconds? Not long enough to make it hot, but warmish should help improve the smell and taste.
    – Stig Tore
    Commented Oct 17, 2018 at 13:19

3 Answers 3


Cats register the presence of food by smell; when food is refrigerated, it has far less scent than when it's fresh from the (room temperature) can, and for many cats, the comparative lack of scent from refrigerated canned food will make it unappealing.

You have the right idea that the (lack of) scent is the issue, but not on how to bring it back. While it's important to keep the food covered to retain the moisture, temperature is the real key to solving the issue. Before serving the food, microwave it lightly in bursts of just a couple of seconds to warm it back up. You don't want it hot, only around room temperature to lukewarm--roughly the temperature of freshly caught prey. Take it slow, stir after each burst, and give it time to rest after removing it from the microwave to make sure it's not overheated. Check the temperature with your own finger to make sure it's not overheated--you're not aiming for "hot," just "not cold."

You might also try transferring the food to a different container, if warming alone isn't sufficient. Depending on how picky your cat is, the food could be picking up a metallic odor from the can during the time in the fridge that she dislikes. I personally use a plastic container for my cats' food, but you can use a glass one, too, as long as it has an air-tight seal. If you're still having trouble, consider a "stinkier" food that will retain more smell when refrigerated, and thus when warmed back up.

  • 2
    When warming up food, consider that cats are far less capable of anticipating and detecting dangerous heat levels in food compared to humans, and they tend to swallow very quickly. Microwaves don't heat up evenly, so after each short burst take it out and stir generously. Before serving, check temperature with your finger in multiple places, essentially like you would check the food you give to a toddler.
    – bgse
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 15:07
  • 2
    @bgse good point, I'll add that to the answer!
    – Allison C
    Commented May 2, 2023 at 18:17

You can get plastic lids for the cat food.

I suggest you transfer to a glass jar just big enough for the left over. With less air it will hold its scent better and less oxidation.

Set it on the counter with lid on for 10 minutes to come to room temperature.

glass jar


I have a couple of thoughts on how to help.

  • Although I'm sure you're doing this, I'll say it just in case: make sure you have the food enclosed in the fridge. I have tins that plastic covers won't fit, so I pop the tin in a ziplock baggie before putting it in the fridge. Otherwise her for with get hard and gross, like pizza when you put the box in the fridge overnight. Ick!
  • Try taking out the food you want to feed her a half hour early (ONLY what you'll be feeding her, as in take it out of the tin and put the remaining food back in the fridge). Let it sit in a covered container somewhere she can't get to it. Then feed it to her once it's room temp.
  • If that doesn't work and she's okay with it, try mixing a bit of water in to make it a bit soupy. Sometimes that helps. I had some Alaskan Salmon oil designed to hydrate cats that I'd mix in with one cat's meal when she wasn't eating to get her to start.
  • Start feeding her less at meals. I have 3 cats and 2 were getting really picky, so I put them on a diet (just a tiny bit less than normal). They immediately stopped being picky. I think they just needed that bit of extra hunger so they wouldn't think "I'm not hungry so why eat this? I need something that tastes GREAT if I'm going to eat."

Good luck!

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