The development of retinal projections to the pretectal complex of prenatal and early postnatal cats has been examined using the anterograde transport of horseradish peroxidase and tritiated amino acids. As early as embryonic day 38, the entire dorsal pretectum is penetrated by retinal ganglion cell axons. At this stage the bilateral complement of retinal efferents appears to be dispersed uniformly within the pretectal anlage. A week later, on embryonic day 46, indistinct foci of peroxidase reaction product can be discerned within 2 of the primordial nuclei: the nucleus of the optic tract and the olivary nucleus. By embryonic day 56, five distinct bilateral fields of retinal fiber termination are apparent within the following regions: (i) the nucleus of the optic tract; (ii) the pretectal olivary nucleus; (iii) the posterior pretectal nucleus; (iv) the anterior pretectal nucleus; and (v) the medial pretectal nucleus. Four days before birth, on embryonic day 61, crossed and uncrossed retinal arbors are partially segregated within the nucleus of the optic tract and the pretectal olivary nucleus. The early postnatal retinal connection to the pretectum has an overall pattern virtually indistinguishable from that of the mature cat. The ontogeny of the retinal influx to the pretectum is similar to that of the retinocollicular projection. However, the development of retinal projections to the pretectum and superior colliculus appears to lag behind those to the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus. These differences may reflect temporal and spatial gradients in the maturation of three major classes of retinal ganglion cells.