Because the organogenesis and physiology of the lens are essentially similar in various mammals, an understanding of the etiology and pathogenesis of the formation of cataract in an animal model will enhance our knowledge of cataractogenesis in man. In this review, we summarize the background, etiology, and pathogenesis of cataracts that occur in rodents. The main advantages of using rodent mutants include the well-researched genetics of the animals and the comparative ease of breeding of large litters. Numerous rodent models of congenital and hereditary cataracts have been studied extensively. In mice, the models include the Cts strain, Fraser mouse, lens opacity gene (Lop) strain, Lop-2 and Lop-3 strains, Philly mouse, Nakano mouse, Nop strain, Deer mouse, Emory mouse, Swiss Webster strain, Balb/c-nct/nct mouse, and SAM-R/3 strain. The rat models include BUdR, ICR, Sprague-Dawley, and Wistar rats, the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR), the John Rapp inbred strain of Dahl salt-sensitive rat, as well as WBN/Kob, Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), and Brown-Norway rats. Other proposed models for the study of hereditary cataract include the degu and the guinea pig. Because of the ease of making clinical observations in vivo and the subsequent availability of the intact lens for laboratory analyses at different stages of cataract formation, these animals provide excellent models for clinicopathologic correlations, for monitoring of the natural history of the aging process and of metabolic defects, as well as for investigations on the effect of cataract-modulating agents and drugs, including the prospect of gene therapy.