The Army Corps of Engineers’ Surprisingly Fantastic Cat Calendar Is Almost Upon Us

The 2023 cat calendar used photoshopped cats to inform citizens about engineering projects - and warn of potential hazards. (Portland District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

When it comes to informing the public about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' public works, nothing is more effective, it turns out, than highlighting the information with adorable giant cats.

In 2023, Oregon's Portland District of the Corps of Engineers released a free, downloadable calendar that showed locks, jetties, dams and other infrastructure punctuated with photoshopped house cats. To everyone's surprise, it was downloaded more than half a million times.

"I realize that in the realm of internet virality, 'hundreds of thousands' seems kind of small. But it's all relative," Chris Gaylord, the Portland District's public affairs specialist, told "For us, that's enough to be considered viral -- especially when you lump it in with the news coverage and social media engagement the calendar received."

The 2023 effort was so successful that Gaylord was "pretty much guaranteed" to make a 2024 calendar. The new calendar will be released to the public on Oct. 30, 2023, via the homepage of the Portland District Corps of Engineers website -- and this year, there will also be a companion dog calendar.

"Tracking all of the discussion [and] engagement about the 2023 cat calendar, lots of folks asked about a dog calendar or recommended we make one," Gaylord said. "Adding dogs to the mix, in my mind, would be a great way to create something special for almost everyone."

An excerpt from the 2024 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dog Calendar. (Portland District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The Army Corps of Engineers' mission is vitally important to American infrastructure and defense. It ​​manages flood control systems, builds and operates locks and dams, surveys 244 navigable river miles and keeps those rivers and ports navigable, all while building facilities for every branch of the military. The Portland District has been operating in this capacity since 1871, and today it makes billions of dollars in commercial shipping possible.

Gaylord is the creator of the original calendar and manages the district's social media outreach. He created the first cat calendar in October 2022 by using images from a Facebook post during 2021's National Cat Day. Not only did the post generate a significant amount of engagement, but Gaylord found it was a good way to get the message out about the Corps' many missions and projects.

"​​The philosophy that drives our social media is that humor is a gateway to a message," he said. "If you don't find a way to pull people in, then you're going to fade away into all the white noise. Simple as that, in my mind. Humor and levity through jokes, puns, memes, trends, pop culture references, etc., is an effective way to bring people in and even to teach them something in the process."

An excerpt from the 2024 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cat Calendar. (Portland District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

"People love cats. Giant cats interacting with government infrastructure? Even better," he added. "It's a delivery method for information. It gets us some awareness and exposure, but in a way that doesn't feel too overpowering and that doesn't take for granted the attention of our public audiences. We also want folks to know that we're not just some faceless bureaucracy. And what better way to do that than by putting a giant cat's face on the front of an official calendar?"

The new calendars are not only filled with lovable cats and dogs on Corps of Engineers infrastructure projects, they are the actual companion animals of the people who work for the district. It's fun, but also a congratulatory nod to the people who make all these improvements possible.

"The thing is, we do a ton of really important work for the people of the Pacific Northwest and beyond," Gaylord says. "We're one of the Corps' largest and most diversified civil works districts. The work we do is critical and, to us, also exciting. But even so, it doesn't always grip the average person in the social media sphere. We have to find a way to give info a little glow-up. These calendars are a prime example of exactly how we do that."

Download the 2024 Portland District Dog Calendar here or get the 2024 Portland District Cat Calendar by clicking here.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at He can also be found on Facebook, X or on LinkedIn.

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