guinea pig standing
Is this guinea pig on the verge of “popcorning”? It’s impossible to know, because popcorning is so unpredictable. mvdsande/

You haven’t read the title wrong. No verb is missing. For guinea pigs, popcorn isn’t something they eat or play with. It’s an activity that guinea pigs do!

Guinea Pig Popcorning Explained

Have you ever been so happy that you jumped for joy? Guinea pigs get happy, too, and that’s the main reason that they give quick, little jumps. These can happen in mid-stride while running or from a standing position. Often the guinea pig changes direction and squeaks. They can look like a bucking bronco sometimes.

Because of the suddenness of the jumping, it’s been dubbed popcorning. When people see it for the first time, some think that the guinea pig is suffering a seizure. But there’s no reason to worry. It’s a perfectly normal behavior. As long as the guinea pig seems to be in control and the jumps don’t continue nonstop, enjoy the happy display.

Although joy is the usual reason for popcorning, fear is sometimes the cause. Pay attention to what’s happening when your guinea pigs popcorn. If it seems to be from fear rather than fun, find out and remove the cause of the fear.

Want to see a guinea pig popcorning in slow motion? This YouTube video from Adam Peiken delivers.

Great Leaping Guinea Pigs!

Guinea pigs are not known as jumpers or climbers. Their body shape doesn’t lend itself to such activities. Most guinea pigs live happily in lidless enclosures with walls only a little more than 2 feet high. Does this mean that all guinea pigs are completely secure in such an enclosure? Nope. Some will be able to leap the wall, but that’s rare.

How high can guinea pigs jump? That’s a matter for debate, and it seems to depend on the guinea pig. Age is also a factor, as younger guinea pigs are more prone to jumping and seem to jump higher than adult guinea pigs. Heavier guinea pigs might have diminished jump ability.

Guinness World Records recognized a Scottish guinea pig as having the longest jump for a guinea pig. The guinea pig, named Truffles, jumped across a gap of nearly 19 inches. There are some reports on the internet of a guinea pig named Puckel Martin holding a high-jump record of a little more than 7 inches, but this does not appear on the Guinness website. The record for guinea pig high jump is open for claiming. In 2012, a young boy made an informal claim via YouTube to the high-jump record with his guinea pig, Patch.

Happy Guinea Pigs

If you share your life with guinea pigs yet haven’t witnessed popcorning, don’t worry. This doesn’t automatically mean that your guinea pigs aren’t happy. Guinea pigs can still be happy even if they don’t popcorn. If you provide the following, they’re likely pretty happy:

  • A healthy, enriched environment
  • Plenty of good food and fresh water
  • Daily playtime and interaction with you

If not, you’ll know by their body language and actions whether they’re stressed, afraid, feeling ill, or otherwise unhappy.

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