Guinea Pigs are truly adorable animals and make great pets due to their gentleness, curiosity, and friendliness when raised in the right environment. Moreover, some of their behaviors and vocalizations are seriously cute. If you’re new to guinea pig parenting, though, it might surprise and even alarm you when you first experience a “popcorning” episode.
When guinea pigs popcorn, they leap off the ground and basically pop up and down in the air like popcorn kernels. They may also dart/zoom about excitedly between popcorns. It often happens completely out of nowhere and some new guinea pig parents are afraid that it’s a seizure they’re witnessing, but rest assured, it’s completely harmless and usually happens when guinea pigs are happy.
Why Do Guinea Pigs “Popcorn”?
The main reason guinea pigs hop/pop up and down in the air is more often than not excitement. When they’re expecting food, socializing, exploring, or playing are among the best times to watch out for popcorning. You can take this as an indication that your guinea pig is in a joyful, contented, or excited mood.
All that being said, guinea pigs sometimes popcorn when they’re feeling afraid or agitated. This may occur as a result of environmental changes, for example, as a reaction to a sudden loud noise or a larger animal (dog, cat, etc.) entering the room. They may also shriek, freeze in place, and/or run and hide when feeling scared.
If you spot something that may be causing your guinea pig to feel afraid, remove it from their environment and let them come out of their hiding place in their own time. You can also speak to them in a soft voice to reassure them.
Is It Popcorning or a Seizure?
Popcorning is sometimes mistaken for a seizure, but seizures look very different from popcorning when they happen. A guinea pig having a seizure will typically lay on their side, convulse, and may become unconscious, whereas popcorning guinea pigs are awake, happy, and appear excited or relaxed. They will suffer no ill effects from the action and will behave normally after a popcorning episode.
If you suspect that your guinea pig is having or has had a seizure, contact your vet to find out if you should bring them straight in or wait until the seizure is over. Keep their environment as peaceful as you possibly can to minimize stress while waiting for treatment.
Is My Guinea Pig in Pain?
As with seizures, a guinea pig experiencing pain or discomfort will appear very different from a guinea pig enjoying a popcorning session. Instead of leaping and/or zooming about and then going back to normal, a guinea pig in pain is more likely to be withdrawn, quiet, and more reluctant to move than usual.
Moreover, guinea pigs have a tendency to mask when they’re in pain because this instinct helps them survive in the wild. For this reason, you’ll need to keep a keen eye out for signs of pain like those mentioned above and contact your vet if something doesn’t seem quite right.
To recap, popcorning is the term used to describe the adorable quick hops and leaps guinea pigs sometimes do when they’re feeling excited or happy. They’re in no way a cause for concern, but just bear in mind that sometimes fear can cause a guinea pig to popcorn, so be vigilant for environmental changes that may be stressing them out.
Featured Image Credit: MJfotografie.cz, Shutterstock