The Boston Startup That Wants Your Pet to Lose Weight

Pet Step is taking on pet obesity and pet health with its interactive animal weighing stations.

Dog running

This is what you should be doing. Photo via Shutterstock

If your dog packed on a couple pounds, would you be worried? If you’re like most pet owners, the answer is probably no. But James Hummer wants to reverse that mindset. Hummer is the founder of Pet Step, a Boston-based startup helping pet owners track their animals’ weight and overall health by installing interactive weighing stations in pet stores.

Hummer wants people to start paying attention to their chubby cats and plump dogs. “It’s the idea of fat and happy; it’s a myth,” he says. “Obese pets or overweight pets in general will die almost two years, on average, earlier than a healthy pet. An obese pet is more susceptible to cancer, has a greater risk of diabetes, and of getting arthritis. They’re really very similar to us, where if their body’s not really maintained, they’re more likely to get a disease and then die from that disease.”

Pet Step kiosks—the first of which will be installed Friday at Natick’s Pet World, and the second next week at the South End’s Bark Place—are designed to be a fun, easy way for pet owners to take a vested interest in their companions’ health, an area often ignored. “Over half the pets in America are overweight, and only eight percent of pet owners would consider their pets overweight,” Hummer explains. “There’s this huge knowledge gap between the reality and what people think. So I thought if you could make this like a blood pressure cuff where it’s in every pet store … maybe you can change this [misconception] and really educate people about the issue.”

Caring more about your pet’s health can  also help improve your own. Since veterinarians recommend that pets get 30 minutes of exercise a day, Hummer suggests taking your dog for walks or runs more frequently now that the weather is warming up. (Or you can try one of these dog-and-owner workouts.) Plus, Hummer says, your pooch might already be doing you more good than you thought. “There’s been a ton of research about how pets in general increase the mood of a pet owner, how they can help with anxiety and depression,” he says. “It’s a social thing. It’s nice to have that companion animal.”

Pet Step Kiosk

A Pet Step weighing station. Photo provided