Why Do Guinea Pigs Popcorn?
Popcorning is by far one of the cutest and funniest things a guinea pig can do. Guinea pigs will often popcorn in different situations, and it may look slightly different for every piggy. However, popcorning is nearly always an expression of joy and happiness. Baby guinea pigs also do it to express excitement and expel all the extra energy that comes with being a little bean.
What Does Guinea Pig Popcorning Look Like?
When guinea pigs popcorn, it looks just like a kernel of corn popping in the air into a puff. This is where the name comes from. Your guinea pig may be in the midst of running around the room, or they may leap into a popcorn from a standstill.
Guinea pig popcorning often involves running, jumping, twitching, and twisting in the air. Small happy squeaks may accompany the popcorning.
To someone unaware, extreme popcorning can look like seizures. It can seem random at times, but popcorning is usually triggered by something: a clean cage, running around during floor time, interacting with their cagemate, or finding a new toy.
Popcorning is a very common behavior for baby guinea pigs. Young guinea pigs have more energy to run and jump around.
As guinea pigs age, they tend to get a bit lazy and prefer to express their happiness in other ways, such as by purring, wheeking, climbing up on the cage to greet you, or following you around.
Guinea pigs of all ages can popcorn, but the older piggies typically do it less often and less intensely than their youthful counterparts. Adults may do a tiny jump and head flick instead of the full body popping leap and zoomies that is common with babies.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Popcorn When You Pet Them?
When guinea pigs popcorn when you pet them, it means they are happy or ticklish. They may have a sudden burst of energy and need to express it in the form of a popcorn. Ticklish guinea pigs often don’t like to sit still when they are touched and get the urge to pop and jump around.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Popcorn Around Other Guinea Pigs?
It is quite normal for guinea pigs to popcorn around other guinea pigs. They can do it as a form of communication, excitement, happiness, or when they feel a burst of joy and energy. Often, popcorning can be contagious, and they will copy their cagemate.
Sometimes when one guinea pig purrs or rumble struts around, it will trigger one or both guinea pigs to popcorn. They are usually just feeding off of each other’s energy and excitement, and the popcorning is a by-product of that.
Why Do Guinea Pigs Do Zoomies?
Zoomies are when your guinea pig suddenly runs very fast around the room. This is different from when guinea pigs run and hide.
When doing zoomies, they will race around, usually stop briefly, and then bolt around the room again. Guinea pig people affectionately refer to this behavior as running piggy laps.
Zoomies are a way for your guinea pig to express joy and excitement and run off their extra energy. Zoomies are far more common with young guinea pigs, as they have so much more energy than adults.
Zoomies are not unique to guinea pigs either. Many species of animals, including rabbits, chinchillas, horses, goats, cats, dogs, and more, will run and zoom around in similar ways to express their happiness and expel bursts of energy.
Seizures or Popcorning?
When new guinea pig parents see their guinea pig popcorning for the first time, it can be quite alarming! Popcorning can look scarily similar to seizures, and it can be hard to tell the difference in some cases. There are, however, a couple of tell-tale signs.
First of all, guinea pigs with seizures will have a loss of balance, often falling onto their side and not getting up for several seconds.
They will be unresponsive during their episode and seem uncoordinated when they come out of it.
On the other hand, popcorning can be clumsy at times, with guinea pigs bumping into the side of the cage or into another guinea pig.
However, they typically notice right away, shake it off, and change directions.
Additionally, guinea pigs are often zooming around between their popcorning expeditions, interacting with other guinea pigs, exploring, and are very aware of their surroundings.
Popcorning can seem random, but something usually triggers the behavior, such as hearing bags rustle, sniffing or playing with another guinea pig, finding a new tunnel or toy, coming out of their cage for floor time, or going back into a clean cage.
If you’re still in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to video your guinea pig’s behavior and show it to your guinea pig’s exotic vet at a health check-up for confirmation.
How to Encourage Your Guinea Pig to Popcorn
Popcorning is an expression of an emotion and some piggies are more likely to popcorn than others. However, there are some ways you can increase the likelihood of them doing it.
Some things that may elicit popcorning are a freshly cleaned cage, giving your piggy soft blankets or beds, getting them out for floor time, rustling bags, giving them a big pile of fresh hay, putting piles of blankets or shredded paper in the cage to play in, giving them cardboard boxes or paper bags, and getting them new toys.
Interactive toys they can go through, like tunnels, are most likely to encourage playful behavior and popcorning.
Providing your guinea pig with a spacious cage can help, as small cages don’t really have room to run or jump in.
You can also clear a running track around the perimeter of your cage and put their beds and hideys in the middle. This gives them a nice path to run piggy laps and possibly popcorn.
You are also much more likely to see popcorning in baby guinea pigs (under 6 months old.) Although if you watch carefully, adults will often do it from time to time too. However, you’re less likely to see extreme popcorning in adult guinea pigs. Normally they will not jump as high or as fast as their younger counterparts. Adults are more likely to give off little jumps or half-body twists.
Guinea pigs are also more likely to popcorn when they live with other guinea pigs. Often sniffing or interacting with cagemates will elicit a playful response from time to time.
Sometimes feeding time when they get pellets or their favorite veggies will trigger guinea pigs to run around and popcorn, although most often, this just results in loud squeaking!
Try not to be discouraged if your guinea pig still doesn’t popcorn. It doesn’t mean your guinea pig is unhappy or that you’re a bad owner!
Some guinea pigs are just not big on the active thing and like to express their joy in other ways.
For example, you may see them sprawling out for a nap with their adorable tiny feet kicked out behind them. Or maybe they greet you with excited wheeks or climb up on the cage bars when you walk in the room. There are so many ways for guinea pigs to express their happiness in life.
Popcorning is a very normal (and absolutely adorable!) behavior that guinea pigs do. It may look concerning to the untrained eye, but once you know it’s normal, watching guinea pigs popcorn will never fail to bring a smile to your face.
Guinea pigs express their emotions and feeling in so many different ways, from popcorning to wheeks to purrs. To learn even more about your little potato’s behavior and what it all means, check out the guinea pig behavior page.