Development of Oral Microbiome in Kittens

Julie K. Spears, PhD
Nestlé Research Center, St. Louis



  • As kittens switch from milk to a commercial diet during the pre-weaning period (2-8 weeks from birth), the oral microbiome rapidly changes.
  • At 8 weeks, there was a significantly greater variation in bacterial species and a higher relative abundance of Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Firmicutes populations compared with those seen at 2 weeks.
  • The oral microbiome is imperative to maintaining optimal oral health in cats. As dietary changes during the pre-weaning period are associated with changes in the oral microbiome, nutritional intervention during this period could help shape and improve the oral health of cats.



Julie K. Spears, PhD- Nestlé Research Center, St. Louis

Dr. Julie Spears earned a doctorate degree in companion animal nutrition from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2005. Her research focused on the effect of prebiotics on intestinal health and immune function. She joined Nestlé Purina in 2005 as a research scientist and currently also serves as an affliate faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Natural Science and Mathematics and Department of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Spears has numerous publications in the field of companion animal nutrition and digestive health. Her current research interests include oral health, gastrointestinal and immune health, and early development.

“Potential dietary interventions during pre-weaning may be able to shape the oral bacteria during this time to improve lifelong oral health in cats”