What is popcorning?

What is popcorning?

Popcorning is a natural action of the Guinea Pig.

A Guinea Pig is an herbivorous rodent mammal in the Caviidae family. It is a cavid, or cavy, but in a different family to other rodents, such as mice, rats, squirrels, porcupines, prairie dogs, beavers, and hamsters. It grows to 20-27 centimetres (8-11 inches) long. 

Guinea Pig

The Guinea Pig, without warning, makes a little jump or leap into the air, often with a little squeaking sound. This is called popcorning. 

It acts like popcorn during heating, when it explodes from a hard kernel (nut) into a fluffy, white morsel of food (for humans).  

Guinea Pig popcorning appears to be random, but scientists think that the leaping action might be a signal of joy and happiness. It occurs mainly with juveniles. Sometimes, the Guinea Pig will jump during loud noises or when it is startled.

A March 2020 study published in the Veterinary Record by the Bristol Veterinary School of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom documents the welfare of pet Guinea Pigs in the UK. There are about 400,000 pet Guinea Pigs in the UK, and the research scientists surveyed 4,590 Guinea Pig owners – with a total of 14,000 pet Guinea Pigs – to determine the behaviours that include good welfare. 

The researchers found that about 50% of the pet Guinea Pig owners reported that their ‘piggy’ popcorned every day, 50% said their pet stood on its hind legs every day, while over 70% said that it lies stretched out every day. Only 9% said that they never saw their Guinea Pig perform any popcorning. 

Guinea Pig

Location of photographs: Paris, France

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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