Intact segments of cat intestinal muscle and strips of isolated longitudinal muscle were treated with agents that reduce intracellular calcium concentration: incubation in 0-calcium saline, treatment with calcium conductance blockers, elevated extracellular magnesium concentration, or alkalinization with NH4Cl. These treatments reduced amplitude and frequency of slow waves in intact segments but only reduced frequency in isolated longitudinal muscle. The reduction in frequency was characterized by prolongation of the hyperpolarized phase of the slow waves. Treatments that would moderately increase intracellular calcium concentration, i.e., increasing external calcium to four times normal levels or lowering pH by CO2, increased slow-wave frequency. Increased frequency was associated with reduced amplitude and shortening of the hyperpolarized phase of the slow waves. Greater than four times normal calcium levels and intense spiking reduced slow-wave frequency. Chlorotetracycline fluorescence, an indicator of intracellular calcium concentration, showed fluctuations synchronous with slow waves. It is concluded that the reactions that pace the generation of slow waves are dependent on the level of intracellular calcium.