It’s hard to believe that the mighty, stone-faced U.S. Army would ever adapt adorable cat babies as its representatives, but this is the internet in the year of our lord 2023. Anything is possible.

That’s certainly what I thought when I stumbled upon this glorious 2023 cat calendar made by the Portland District of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While it’s not the product of a Photoshop wizard, the calendar earnestly features gigantic cats being their amazing furry selves. They play, they scratch, they think about life, and they stretch—all the while interacting with the Army Corps’ various dams, jetties, and heavy machinery.

I reached out to the Army Corps’ in Portland to ask if I could speak to the mastermind behind the calendar, eager to ask one big question: Why would the army make a cat calendar?

Chris Gaylord, a public affairs specialist, proudly told me the calendar was his brainchild and he made all the images and wrote the captions himself. It was an effort to educate the public about what the Army Corps’ in Portland does in a fun way that’s not boring, he said.

“We do so much critical work across this organization for the fine people of the Pacific Northwest and beyond,” Gaylord explained in an email, pointing out that his district generates hydropower for millions across the Pacific Northwest and operates 15 dams in Oregon’s river valleys. “And while we happen to think it’s interesting and exciting, it doesn’t exactly grip the average person when we talk about it, despite our best efforts.”

Gaylord said the content for the calendar originally came together for a post to celebrate National Cat Day on Facebook in 2021. At that time, a colleague became inspired by a post that Photoshopped cats on fancy architecture and suggested the Army Corps’ do the same thing and feature its projects instead. Gaylord, a cat dad himself, was game. As expected, the cat tribute was a hit.

Last year, while working on the Army Corps’ content calendar, Gaylord recalled how popular the cat post had been and thought about recycling the content and creating something new with something old… perhaps a calendar? Come November, Gaylord shared his work of art on social media again, where it has been making the rounds ever since.

The public affairs specialist said the response to the calendar from across the agency has been overwhelmingly positive. In recent days, he’s gotten emails about the calendar from people he’s never even heard of. As for why Gaylord chose cats, of all animals, to feature in the calendar, he says it’s because they’re so weird.

“They’re really the perfect animal to make gargantuan-sized and then drop into a formal setting that is totally serious and has nothing to do with cats, largely because their mannerisms lend themselves to interaction with the scene,” he told me.

When it comes to the haters criticizing his Photoshop skills, Gaylord’s got a message for them as well: “Whatever.” He got so much joy out of the “creative gymnastics” of fitting cats into basic civil works settings in clever ways.

“I know people are criticizing the Photoshop skills,” he pointed out. “That wasn’t the point. The point was to make something fun and delightful. It’s not a masterclass on Photoshop. I mean, obviously.”

Gaylord said that although the calendar was initially supposed to be a one-off thing, the district is planning on repeating the activity next year. The second annual Army Corps of Portland calendars will feature a cat version and a dog version, and will feature 100% employee-owned pets.

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