"Popcorning" In Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are wonderful, comical fur balls with their own unique body language. If you are not used to guinea pig body language, then some of their activities which are normal to them look very strange to us. They even do things dogs and cats don't do. Since guinea pigs are still considered "exotic pets", sometimes vets will not know guinea pig body languauge, either. It is up to you to learn it. One of the most common and comical guinea pig behaviors is nicknamed "popcorning" by guinea pig caretakers.
So, What Is "Popcorning"?
You ever watch a kernel of popcorn just before it pops? It does so very suddenly and without warning. One moment it's a little kernel and the next moment POP into the fluffy white puff. Guinea pigs leap very suddenly in just the same way. No, they don't transform instantaneously into fluffy white puffs of popcorn, but the motion comes without warning and can make you jump, too.
The guinea pig will often just spring straight up as if the little feet were actually pogo sticks (some prefer to call the action "pogoing" rather than "popcorning"). The technical name for this sudden spring skywards is called "pronking". But "popcorning" sounds much cuter and a lot more suitable for a guinea pig.
Other animals that pronk (or stot) are gazelles, horses (on occasion, when they are feeling very goofy) and the springbok.
Unlike the hoofed animals that pronk, guinea pigs can sometimes turn in midair as much as ninety degrees. Sometimes they squeal and sometimes they just get busy with popcorning some more. This happens only for a few seconds or interspersed throughout a few minutes of running about.
Why Do They Do It?
Although popcorning looks very sudden and sometimes seizure-like, your piggy is not under any stress. In fact, popcorning is a sign of the exact opposite - it is a sign that your guinea pig is happy and full of high spirits. Only healthy guinea pigs popcorn jump. Popcorning is nothing to worry about. Guinea pigs can do it until they get quite old, and either sex will do it. Guinea pig babies only a few days old will popcorn jump, too.
Although they might not look too smart, guinea pigs do have a good helping of common sense. They seem to know that popcorning is an activity best left on the ground and will not attempt to do so when held. But guinea pigs can try to jump out of your hands if they are scared. You need a good snug hold whenever you pick up a guinea pig. Never pick a guinea pig up by the spine - that can cause spinal damage. If you do not know how to pick up a guinea pig, get a pet store employee or your vet to show you. Or, you could check out this link.