Image credit here. Holy Family With a Cat (or, The Madonna of the Cat), Federico Barocci, 1577-80, Oil on wood, 44" x 40", held by Musee Conde, Chantilly, France.
For Barocci, the cat is the very symbol of the family, domestic intimacy, peace....Barocci also experienced nausea, convulsions, and psychosomatic problems that forced him to put down his brushes. It is well known that stroking and looking after a cat are among the most effective natural ways to calm the nerves.
The babies are John the Baptist (with the finch) and of course, Jesus. No play date is complete without a cat.