Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an aspect of cognitive aging that is considered to be a transitional state between normal aging and the dementia into which it may convert. Appropriate animal models are necessary in order to understand the pathogenic mechanisms of MCI and develop drugs for its treatment. In this review, we identify the features that should characterize an animal model of MCI, namely old age, subtle memory impairment, mild neuropathological changes, and changes in the cholinergic system, and the age at which these features can be detected in laboratory animals. These features should occur in aging animals with normal motor activity and feeding behavior. The animal models may be middle-aged rats and mice, rats with brain ischemia, transgenic mice overexpressing amyloid precursor protein and presenilin 1 (tested at an early stage), or aging monkeys. Memory deficits can be detected by selecting appropriately difficult behavioral tasks, and the deficits can be associated with neuropathological alterations. The reviewed literature demonstrates that, under certain conditions, these animal species can be considered to be MCI models, and that cognitive impairment in these models responds to drug treatment.