If physiological mechanisms similar to cat Y and X cells explain faster detection of low spatial frequencies by humans, then cats should show the same effect. We have tested this prediction by determining the visual reaction time of cats over a range of spatial frequencies and contrasts by training them to respond quickly when a vertical sine-wave grating was presented. At 50% contrast, the cat's visual reaction time increased monotonically from 0.25–2.0 cpd (cycle/deg). At every spatial frequency tested, the cat's reaction time increased monotonically as contrast decreased. By determining contrast threshold (70% detection) at each spatial frequency, it was possible to determine reaction times for different spatial frequencies at equal physical contrasts and equal “threshold equivalent” contrasts. Some of the cat's faster detection of low spatial frequencies was due to sensitivity differences and some was not. To determine if faster detection of low spatial frequencies was based upon Y cells, we took advantage of the fact that Y cells show a strong peripheral effect while X cells do not. Low and high spatial frequencies were detected in the presence of a flickering (7 Hz) or steady (70 Hz) surround. Surround frequency had no effect upon reaction times to 2.0 cpd but the flickering surround increased reaction times to 0.25 cpd. These results indicate that, in cats, rapid detection of low spatial frequencies is by Y cells and slower detection of high spatial frequencies is by X cells.