Custom Caching Strategies#

There are times when a server provides responses that are logically cacheable, but they lack the headers necessary to cause CacheControl to cache the response. The HTTP Caching Spec does allow for caching systems to cache requests that lack caching headers. In these situations, the caching system can use heuristics to determine an appropriate amount of time to cache a response.

By default, in CacheControl the decision to cache must be explicit by default via the caching headers. When there is a need to cache responses that wouldn’t normally be cached, a user can provide a heuristic to adjust the response in order to make it cacheable.

For example when running a test suite against a service, caching all responses might be helpful speeding things up while still making real calls to the API.

Caching Heuristics#

A cache heuristic allows specifying a caching strategy by adjusting response headers before the response is considered for caching.

For example, if we wanted to implement a caching strategy where every request should be cached for a week, we can implement the strategy in a cachecontrol.heuristics.Heuristic.

import calendar
from cachecontrol.heuristics import BaseHeuristic
from datetime import datetime, timedelta
from email.utils import parsedate, formatdate

class OneWeekHeuristic(BaseHeuristic):

    def update_headers(self, response):
        date = parsedate(response.headers['date'])
        expires = datetime(*date[:6]) + timedelta(weeks=1)
        return {
            'expires' : formatdate(calendar.timegm(expires.timetuple())),
            'cache-control' : 'public',

    def warning(self, response):
        msg = 'Automatically cached! Response is Stale.'
        return '110 - "%s"' % msg

When a response is received and we are testing for whether it is cacheable, the heuristic is applied before checking its headers. We also set a warning header to communicate why the response might be stale. The original response is passed into the warning header in order to use its values. For example, if the response has been expired for more than 24 hours a Warning 113 should be used.

In order to use this heuristic, we pass it to our CacheControl constructor.

from requests import Session
from cachecontrol import CacheControl

sess = CacheControl(Session(), heuristic=OneWeekHeuristic())
r = sess.get('')
assert r.from_cache

The google homepage specifically uses a negative expires header and private cache control header to avoid caches. We’ve managed to work around that aspect and cache the response using our heuristic.

Best Practices#

Cache heuristics are still a new feature, which means that the support is somewhat rudimentary. There likely to be best practices and common heuristics that can meet the needs of many use cases. For example, in the above heuristic it is important to change both the expires and cache-control headers in order to make the response cacheable.

If you do find a helpful best practice or create a helpful heuristic, please consider sending a pull request or opening a issue.

Expires After#

CacheControl bundles an ExpiresAfter heuristic that is aimed at making it relatively easy to automatically cache responses for a period of time. Here is an example

import requests
from cachecontrol import CacheControlAdapter
from cachecontrol.heuristics import ExpiresAfter

adapter = CacheControlAdapter(heuristic=ExpiresAfter(days=1))

sess = requests.Session()
sess.mount('http://', adapter)

The arguments are the same as the datetime.timedelta object. ExpiresAfter will override or add the Expires header and override or set the Cache-Control header to public.

Last Modified#

CacheControl bundles an LastModified heuristic that emulates the behavior of Firefox, following RFC7234. Roughly stated, this sets the expiration on a page to 10% of the difference between the request timestamp and the last modified timestamp. This is capped at 24-hr.

import requests
from cachecontrol import CacheControlAdapter
from cachecontrol.heuristics import LastModified

adapter = CacheControlAdapter(heuristic=LastModified())

sess = requests.Session()
sess.mount('http://', adapter)

Site Specific Heuristics#

If you have a specific domain that you want to apply a specific heuristic to, use a separate adapter.

import requests
from cachecontrol import CacheControlAdapter
from mypkg import MyHeuristic

sess = requests.Session()

In this way you can limit your heuristic to a specific site.


Caching is hard and while HTTP does a reasonable job defining rules for freshness, overriding those rules should be done with caution. Many have been frustrated by over aggressive caches, so please carefully consider your use case before utilizing a more aggressive heuristic.