I find I can pick up animal's emotions the same way I can read human minds......only when there is a strong emotion being felt and a tie to me. Is one of your cats having problems with one of the other ones? I have had that happen, especially when a new cat is introduced, and I've picked up the resulting anxiety as they sort out the pecking order.
I have always liked being alone and preferred it to being with the wrong people, so I've been happy with my spouse and just a couple of friends in life, but lately I have become profoundly lonely, to the point where I've become suicidal, crying all the time, and just started to see a therapist. I am 66, so this is a highly unusual age to suddenly become an extrovert! I only have a few friends, and most of them live far away, but I've been in situations where I had less friends than now and was quite okay with it.
I am wondering if it could be my nearest neighbor I am picking this up from, a woman who is quite nasty; nobody around here speaks to her anymore since she is so mean, and is therefore quite alone, except for her family in another state. We had to put up a 6 ft. high solid fence because she bullied me so much I almost had a stroke. I see black waves rolling off her aura. I've seen enough of her to know that she can't stand being alone, is what a shrink would call a "gusher", and is always on the phone with her family members releasing her emotions. Her family are like her, so there is constant screaming, which she seems to think is a normal way to converse. I wonder if I am picking up her loneliness and sadness.
It's awful, and no shielding, grounding, meditating, visualizing, expanding myself and letting it flow though me, etc. has helped. We can't move for several reasons, though I would make it happen anyway if it was up to me. She will not be moving, as she owns her home outright, told me she feels at home here, and has a good job, where she fills in for people in her job who are out sick from work at hospitals all over the country. When she is out of town, which is rare, I feel a lot calmer. She was fired from 4 jobs in a row where she was in one place all the time, since coworkers could not stand her.
I feel this is the same issue, whether it's pets, family or neighbors. If it is coming from a being we cannot or do not want to escape from, what is the best way to keep it from affecting us? I agree that it is amazing we empaths are sane, given the world today, and the neediness I feel from almost everyone I meet. I guess I would not be considered sane anymore, since I am so sad now that I want to leave this world, so how do we effectively protect ourselves?
GREAT question, Ohda! I hope someone has some fresh ideas!