I’ve got used to cats walking around my campus like a boss. After all, there’s nothing curious about it: this is a public space. Even though cats are individualists and somewhat arrogant creatures (ils s’en fichent de toi), I’d stand on their side if they despise humans for cuddling them without permission.
In the same way, we give ourselves the right to approach people whose status make them more likely to be exposed to random interactions (according to Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everday Life). One example is elderly people, who are supposed to not having much to do in their life. Therefore, we are not afraid to waste their time, or we offer our help because we think they can’t manage on their own. Another example: lonely people, who systematically received sympathy because people think they must be craving for companionship. We do what we think is right, without pausing for a moment to see things from their perspectives.
A pet is normally treated as an object, because it’s cute, fluffy and idle. We touch it for our pleasure then walk away. So either the cat is not in the position to defend itself, or it is too smart to refuse the game (and it enjoys your admiration instead).
I saw the cat passionately wash itself after being caressed by a group of students.