Orexin-A-like immunoreactive (OrA-ir) neurons and terminals in the cat hypothalamus were examined using immunohistochemical techniques. OrA-ir neurons were found principally in the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA) at the level of the tuberal cinereum and in the dorsal and posterior hypothalamic areas. In the LHA the majority of the neurons were located dorsal and lateral to the fornix; a small number of OrA-ir neurons were also present in other regions of the hypothalamus. OrA-ir fibers with varicose terminals were detected in almost all hypothalamic regions. The high density of fibers was located in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the infundibular nucleus (INF), the tuberomamillary nucleus (TM) and the supra- and pre-mamillary nuclei. Ultrastructural analysis revealed that OrA-ir neurons in the LHA receive abundant input from non-immunoreactive terminals. These terminals, which contained many small, clear, round vesicles with a few large, dense core vesicles, made asymmetrical synaptic contacts with OrA-ir dendrites, indicating that the activity of orexin neurons is under excitatory control. On the other hand, the terminals of OrA-ir neurons also made asymmetrical synaptic contact with dendrites in the LHA, the INF and the TM. The dendrites in the LHA were both non-immunoreactive and OrA-ir; conversely, the dendrites in the INF and the TM were non-immunoreactive. In these regions, OrA-ir terminals contained many small, clear, round vesicles with few large, dense core vesicles, suggesting that orexinergic neurons also provide excitatory input to other neurons in these regions.