Fun fact: neutering a male cat takes only two minutes. For females, the surgery can be slightly longer, depending on her age and the timing of her heat cycle. In both cases, it’s usually possible to take your (sweet but lethargic) furry friend home the same day of the surgery.

Spaying or neutering a cat is considered the ‘cornerstone of pet ownership in the United States,” according to the ASPCA, which also publishes staggering statistics on the cat population each year (it’s estimated that there are between 74 and 96 million stray cats without homes in the US today). Similar to dogs, the optimal time of sterilization for cats is also up for debate. At shelters, the surgery is performed as young as 8 weeks old, and the kittens are ready to be adopted shortly after. This One vet argues that the best time is actually between 5 and 9 months, when they are at a good size, they’re already at their forever home, and most importantly, can have a calm environment to recover.

The surgery reaps research-based physical and medical benefits, too — spaying a female cat will help prevent uterine infections and essentially eliminate the risk of feline mammary cancers, which are malignant in 90 percent of cats and tend to be more aggressive in comparison to other species. For male cats, there are behavior benefits to neutering as well. “Anyone who as ever tried living with an intact male cat will tell you that the vocalizations, escape attempts, roaming, fighting and urine spraying associated with normal tom cat behavior can get old really quick,” says Veteran Advisor for PetMD Dr. Jennifer Coates. In general, a neutered male cat will be less likely to mark inappropriately inside or engage in fights with other felines.

With every study reflecting both medical and behavior benefits to spaying and neutering a cat, we think of it as the most responsible thing a cat owner can do for their four-legged friend. Of course, after the surgery, keep an eye out for bleeding, shivering, refusing water, vomiting or diarrhea – and contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns.