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What Is Popcorning In Guinea Pigs? Reasons Why They Do it.

Before you rush out and buy bags of popcorn for your guinea pig, let’s be clear and say that popcorning has absolutely nothing to do with the tasty snack! Rather, it is a descriptive word used in relation to a movement that you might see your guinea pig make. 

What is popcorning in guinea pigs? It’s a manouvre guinea pigs make to express their joy and show their emotions. It involves a sudden jumping action which is often fast and without warning. Your guinea pig is in no danger from popcorning and it’s a good thing to observe. When guinea pigs ‘ popcorn’ they’re happy.

So What Is Popcorning?

You may be aware that guinea pigs are not really known for their skills at jumping and climbing. This is because their podgy body shapes do not lend themselves well to such activities. In fact, so bad are guinea pigs at these things that they often live in enclosures, about two feet high, with no ‘escape prevention’ lid. 

We use an 8 panel outdoor playpen with a cover on the top to provide shade and safety. Click here to see an example.

This does not mean, however, that guinea pigs can’t and do not jump. Rather, the exact opposite is true, and they perform a jump known as ‘popcorning.’ For anyone who has witnessed this manouvre, they will already know how cute and delightful popcorning is to watch. It is named so as the jump is sudden and in a straight upward motion just like a popcorn kernel popping. 

These jumps can occur whilst running, mid-stride, or from the standing position. You may also notice your guinea pig change direction and squeak whilst popcorning making them look a little like bucking broncos. 

Why Do Guinea Pigs Popcorn?

Guinea pigs popcorn (in the main) to show utter joy and excitement. It is a perfectly normal behavior that you should see most guinea pigs displaying from time to time. However, it should be noted, that not all guinea pigs popcorn and that as long as you are providing the following, you should not worry that they don’t.

  • A healthy diet
  • Clean water
  • Daily playtime
  • Interaction with yourself

You should also note that on occasion a guinea pig may popcorn out of fear. For this reason, it is important that you pay attention to the circumstances in which your guinea pig is popcorning. If it appears that the popping may be fear based you should locate and remove the cause.

kid and guinea pig
Guinea Pigs Popcorn to show their joy to their owners

Can I Get My Guinea Pig To Popcorn?

Yes, you can, and the best way to do that is to provide them with things you know they like. After all, providing excitement and happiness is the way to a guinea pig’s heart. 

Tasty Treats – As you probably already know guinea pigs love their fruit and veggie treats and giving them some is a great way to get them to popcorn. You should be careful, however, not to overdo it as too much of a good thing can cause diarrhea. Some people have also reported that they have been able to get their guinea pig to popcorn on cue. They have done this by saying words such as pop when they give them a treat. In turn, eventually the guinea pig has associated popcorning with the word, and ‘hey presto’ they will pop on cue. 

Click here to see a range on Guinea pig treats.

New Toys – Guinea pigs just love their toys. They provide enrichment to their daily lives and a new one will always drum up excitement. Tunnels, boxes, ladders, or balls, it doesn’t really matter, guinea pigs that do will popcorn for them all. You may also want to try swapping out your guinea pigs toys on a frequent basis so they always feel like a new and exciting (popcorning) experience. 

Click here for some great guinea pig toy ideas.

Play With Your Guinea Pig – Giving your guinea pig time to play outside their cage and with you is a great way to encourage them to popcorn. In fact, it is often the best and most successful method. Picking up, holding, and petting your guinea pig can also go along way in getting them to popcorn when you put them back down in their cage. 

How High Will My Guinea Pig Jump?

In general, guinea pigs do not jump very high. However, this is a matter for discussion which seems to depend very much on the guinea pig in question. Age can also be a factor with younger guinea pigs jumping higher than older, as can weight with lighter ones jumping higher than heavier.

On the internet, there are some reports of a guinea pig named Puckel Martin jumping seven inches in the air. However, this and no other high jump has been recorded in the Guinness Book Of World Records making it hard to know. There is, believe it or not, a world record for the longest jump, however, which was made by Truffles and measured nearly nineteen inches. 

How Will I Know The Difference Between Popcorning And An Illness, Say A Seizure?

Popcorning is a very distinctive movement in which your guinea pig will jump a little, twist their neck, and squeak.

A seizure, on the other hand, involves the guinea pig falling on their side and waving their legs like they are running. Their head also may jerk once in a while and the whole process will last for longer than when they popcorn.

Popcorning will never involve falling over and if your guinea pig does this you should consult your vet. 

girl playing with her guinea pig
Play and have fun with your guinea pig and they will popcorn more often

Freeze!

In the wild guinea pigs use a number of natural manouvre to escape predators. Freezing is just one of them. Whilst this action is not classed as ‘popcorning’ it is still a very special action that guinea pigs often make.

When you guinea pig feels threaten or thinks there’s a predator near by they will freeze. Often for only a few seconds but I have also seen this happen for longer. Up to one minute is the longest I have seen it happen.

Your guinea pig is trying to make itself invisible to the predator to avoid being attacked or worse eaten.

It is just one of their defensive measures against predators if they still live in the wild.

Conclusion: Popcorning in guinea pigs

As you have seen popcorning is a sign that your guinea pig is feeling joyous, even excited, and it is a behavior most will display at least once in their lives. It, however, does not mean that your guinea pig is sad or depressed if they do not. Guinea pigs can be perfectly happy as long as they are looked after and given plenty of love.

Many poeple call ‘Popcorning’ the guinea pig dance. Every guinea pig will behave and react differently to their owners and express their emotions is different ways. Popcorning is just one way your guinea pig can express their joy and happiness.

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