In this article we find out what guinea pig popcorning is, what it looks like (with cute videos, naturally!) and what these funny little friends are trying to communicate when they do it!
Guinea pigs are adorable, sociable, and wonderful little pets.
They also have a lot of distinctive movements and noises they use to share how they’re feeling.
These habits are so personable that guinea pigs have taken the pet world, and more recently the internet, by storm.
And it can leave us wondering: do our guinea pigs’ amusing antics have a deeper meaning?
Popcorning in guinea pigs
There’s a lot of terminology to describe the signature movements and vocalizations of our furry guinea pig friends, and it can get confusing.
Today we’re going to focus in one particular term: popcorning.
How can you recognize your guinea pig popcorning?
Why does he do it and what does it mean about how he feels?
We’ll answer those questions right now, and start with what popcorning looks like exactly.
What does guinea pig popcorning look like?
Sometimes, a guinea pig will launch into a short burst of high-energy jumping, twisting, pirouetting, and signature wheeking which can startle a first time owner.
Experienced guinea pig keepers know it well however, and they’ve even given the distinctive moves their own evocative name: popcorning.
The reason it’s called popcorning is fairly self evident.
Popcorning guinea pigs jump and skip around like a corn kernels exploding in a popcorn maker!
So what does it mean when a guinea pig popcorns?
Our pets benefit enormously when we can understand the signals they send us, so let’s take a look at why guinea pigs popcorn.
Why do guinea pigs popcorn?
The modern domestic guinea pig has had a long road to get to where he is today.
It might seem unimportant, but bear with me, because guinea pigs’ wild ancestry tells us a lot about what popcorning must mean to them.
Guinea pigs were originally domesticated by indigenous South Americans from the wild guinea pigs that shared their environment.
The main purpose of this guinea pig breeding project was to use them as a form of livestock.
The idea of eating a guinea pig might horrify some of us today, but without this act we would likely never have come to a point where we see them as pets.
Around the 16th century European explorers brought the already-domesticated animals back to England.
A love affair started there, and has continued ever since.
Popcorning guinea pigs
In their native South American habitats these furry critters were bottom of the food chain, so they had to learn some survival strategies.
One is simply running away from danger.
The main threats to a guinea pig’s existence in his natural habitat are birds of prey, so if your guinea pigs scatter as you reach down from above, it’s not because they don’t trust you specifically, they just have an instinctive aversion to anything coming from the sky.
Another tactic is to freeze.
You might notice you guinea pigs do this when they hear an unfamiliar noise.
They’ll root to the spot in the hope of not being noticed, with their body stretched out and ready to run, if running becomes the better option.
And finally, guinea pigs find safety in numbers.
They form social groups, and are happiest around others of their own kind.
To help with this they have 11 distinct calls to send messages and make sure they don’t get lost.
What does it mean when a guinea pig popcorns?
What does all this mean about guinea pig popcorning???
When a guinea pig is frightened or nervous he’ll usually flee or freeze.
However, popcorning doesn’t fit into either of these behaviors.
It just wouldn’t make sense for a guinea pig to make a big show and prance around squeaking if they were in fear for their life.
Anyone who’s owned guinea pigs knows that if they’re not in a good mood, they just hide.
So reassuringly, it seems that guinea pigs popcorning must be an expression of joy.
Something – perhaps food, stimulation, or even company – has driven them to popcorn as an expression of delight.
Since guinea pigs live in social groups, a little display of happiness might also be a signal to the group that danger isn’t close, and they can all relax a little and have fun.
So now we know why they do it, who wants to see what guinea pig popcorning looks like?!
Guinea pig popcorning video
If you haven’t seen a guinea pig popcorning yet, take a look at this guinea pig popcorning video.
The guinea pig in the video is clearly very happy about something.
He’s out in the open, but not worried, and he’s popcorning away.
He’s confident and relaxed enough to engage in this activity, and that’s a good sign he feels safe and looked after.
Videos like this can be really helpful to identify your own guinea pigs’ behavior.
Guinea pigs might vocalize and move slightly differently when popcorning, but it’s always recognizable.
And just wait until you see it slowed down!
Guinea pig popcorning video – in slow motion!
Popcorning in guinea pigs happens so fast it’s hard to make out exactly what they’re up to.
This compilation video of guinea pigs popcorning in slow motion, shows you exactly what aerial acrobatics is taking place.
You can also see the kind of things that set off a guinea pig popcorning.
It can be anything from the opportunity to enjoy some grass, play chase in an open space with a friend, explore a new obstacle course, to the prospect of a snack or a even just bit of love and attention from mum.
And if you were watching closely you’ll have spotted it’s not just for adult guinea pigs…
Baby guinea pigs popcorning
It might be too adorable for anyone to bear, but baby guinea pigs popcorn too!
Guinea pigs don’t stay small for too long, so the window of opportunity is fairly small.
But, if you interact enough with your guinea pig babies, and give them plenty of stimulation, you might have them popcorning in no time.
It seems then, that guinea pigs propensity to popcorn is not something that’s learned, but built into the very fiber of their being.
This happy little dance is a marker that you’re doing something right at any age.
Guinea pig popcorning
So, to sum up, what does guinea pig popcorning mean?
Popcorning in guinea pigs is their way of expressing that they feel happy and safe.
We expend a lot of time and energy trying to make our pets happy, so it’s great that our little pigs have a special dance to show when we’re succeeding.
If your guinea pig is confident and relaxed enough to do his signature dance for you, be proud of yourself: you must be doing a great job!
But if you don’t catch it, don’t assume the worst: some guinea pigs are just naturally more reserved and less extrovert than others too.
So is your guinea pig a frequent popcorner? Let us know in the comments below.