I have always said the obvious, that cats see us as giant cats. All the signs are there: kneading us for milk, licking us, then we stroking them back, scent exchanging and so on.
John Bradshaw who wrote Cat Senses agrees with me (I am pleased to say). This little, cute video supports that view:
In the video the cat is allogrooming another cat in her/his mind. Allogrooming means grooming a cat friend. What makes it more like a cat-to-cat encounter and friendship is the baby-to-cat size ratio. The baby is not vastly larger than the cat so it looks more like a cat grooming a cat.
What is interesting is that the baby gets up from time to time to stop it. Why is that? My answer is that a cat’s tongue is quite harsh. The keratin papillae are hard and the cat licks in the same place over and over. As the baby has thin “fur” (hair) the cat is licking the skin rather than what should be fur. The baby feels that and it becomes uncomfortable so she gets up.
I think the baby likes it, though, as she readily lies down again for more. What the baby could have done with her mother’s encouragement was to stroke the cat in return to make it a session of mutual allogrooming. This would have further bonded the two species (human+cat).
Cats are good for babies. They teach baby to respect animals provided mother instils that in her baby and it can help with developing a better immune system and prevent allergies in the future when adult. It also desensitises baby to the cat allergen.