Zeolites, as efficient and stable catalysts, are widely used in the environmental catalysis field. Typically, Cu-SSZ-13 with small-pore structure shows excellent catalytic activity for selective catalytic reduction of NO x with ammonia (NH3-SCR) as well as high hydrothermal stability. This review summarizes major advances in Cu-SSZ-13 applied to the NH3-SCR reaction, including the state of copper species, standard and fast SCR reaction mechanism, hydrothermal deactivation mechanism, poisoning resistance and synthetic methodology. The review gives a valuable summary of new insights into the matching between SCR catalyst design principles and the characteristics of Cu2+-exchanged zeolitic catalysts, highlighting the significant opportunity presented by zeolite-based catalysts. Principles for designing zeolites with excellent NH3-SCR performance and hydrothermal stability are proposed. On the basis of these principles, more hydrothermally stable Cu-AEI and Cu-LTA zeolites are elaborated as well as other alternative zeolites applied to NH3-SCR. Finally, we call attention to the challenges facing Cu-based small-pore zeolites that still need to be addressed.