Previous studies investigating the response properties of neurons in the primary visual cortex of cats and primates have shown that prolonged exposure to optimally oriented, high-contrast gratings leads to a reduction in responsiveness to subsequently presented test stimuli. We recorded from 119 neurons in cat V1 and V2 and found that in a high proportion of cells contrast adaptation also occurs for gratings oriented orthogonal to a neuron's preferred orientation, even though this stimulus did not elicit significant increases in spiking activity. Approximately 20% of neurons adapted equally to all orientations tested and a further 46% showed at least some adaptation to orthogonally oriented gratings, whereas 20% of neurons did not adapt to orthogonal gratings. The magnitude of contrast adaptation was positively correlated with adapting contrast, but was not related to the spiking activity of the cells. Highly direction selective neurons produced stronger adaptation to orthogonally oriented gratings than other neurons. Orientation-related adaptation was correlated with the rate of change of orientation tuning in consecutive cells along electrode penetrations that traveled parallel to the cortical layers. Nonoriented adaptation was most common in areas where orientation preference changed rapidly, whereas orientation-selective adaptation was most common in areas where orientation preference changed slowly. A minority of neurons did not show contrast adaptation (14%). No major differences were found between units in different cortical layers, V1 and V2, or between complex and simple cells. The relevance of these findings to the current understanding of adaptation within the context of orientation column architecture is discussed.